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Sir William Temple's 

Essays 
On Ancient & Modern Learning 

and 
On Poetry 

Edited by 

J. E. Spingarn 



Professor of Comparative Literature 
Columbia University, New York 



Oxford 

L 

At the Clarendon Press b 



1909 

* 









HENRY FROWDE, M.A. 

PUBLISHER TO THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD 

LONDON, EDINBURGH, NEW YORK 

TORONTO AND MELBOURNE 



n 



2. 



INTRODUCTORY NOTE 

TEMPLE'S fame has waned since the days when the 
essays here reprinted were Pope's favourite prose; 
but these still maintain their historical importance, 
for they represent a turning point in the development 
of English style, and in them something of the tone 
and temper of the eighteenth-century essay are 
already apparent. Goldsmith need not have told us 
that Temple's style was 'the model by which the 
best prose writers in the reign of Queen Anne 
formed theirs ', nor Swift that Temple ' advanced our 
English tongue to as great perfection as it can well 
bear ' ; to read aloud a single essay is to discover for 
oneself this forgotten secret. Johnson suggested to 
Bos well at least one of the causes of this reforming 
power : ' Sir William Temple was the first writer 
who gave cadence to English prose. Before his time 
they were careless of arrangement, and did not mind 
whether a sentence ended with an important v word or 
an insignificant word, or with what part of speech it 
was concluded.' But the charm was not merely the 
charm of cadence, nor that grace and musical eloquence 
which Temple had found in French prose and strove to 



iv Introductory Note 

naturalize in England ; it was not only finish of style, 
but the dignity and restraint of temper, the fastidious 
taste, which found merely a fitting garment in the 
outer technique of language. This is what Goldsmith 
meant when he said that Temple ' wrote always like 
a man of sense and a gentleman'; it was this fastidious 
taste and aloofness, rather than moral scruple, which 
kept him pure of speech in an age of licence. 

The somewhat flimsy learning of the first of these 
two essays, or rather the trivial blunder that provoked 
the controversy on the authenticity of the Letters of 
Phalaris, has been his undoing. Macaulay, in some 
violent and ill-considered pages, has thought it a 
simple matter to dismiss Temple's every claim to 
a serious place, and classical scholars have been 
content to echo these sneers ; but the fact is that his 
real importance lies, not so much in the mere varnish 
of style, as in the regions of taste and ideas in criticism. 
In an age which failed to distinguish between classic 
art and neo-classic theory, Temple urged his genera 
tion alike to a defence of the ancients and to scorn of 
ancient rule. In a literary age which set store chiefly 
by dogmatic law, he urged the new criterion of critical 
'taste'. 

The history of seventeenth-century classicism is 
not to be written in a few introductory pages. All 
the world knows how the Italians of the later 
Renaissance passed on this legacy to the France of 



Introductory Note v 

Louis XIV, and how it passed thence to Stuart 
England. But it is not generally realized that the 
earliest reaction against its excesses, almost a century 
before the final romantic revolt, is represented by 
a school of wits and virtuosi for whom taste rather 
than formal precept served as the test of literary 
excellence. The alien Saint-fivremond was perhaps 
the chief standard-bearer of this movement in Temple's 
day ; Dryden, in some of his rarer moods, gave it his 
sanction ; but in Temple himself this new standard 
moves harmoniously, for the first time in English, in 
a medium of expression that illustrates the new theory 
by the very grace of its practice. He attacks all the ( 
rules that burdened the creative art of his period, 
praising English comedy as a natural and unhampered 
expression of English life. He seeks to substitute 
historical criticism for the abstract criticism of Rules. 
He is full of dicta and aper?us that hold the attention 
of later critics, full of phrases and ideas whose history 
begins, and only begins, with him. He attacks the 
moral licence of contemporary English literature and 
the excessive refinement of contemporary French 
style. He sets the seal of approval on English* 
humour, and distinguishes it from its continental 
analogues. He foresees the new modes of romantic 
interest in the unknown literatures of the far North 
and the far East. The blunder of Phalaris cannot 
override such claims as these. 



vi Introductory Note 

It is in order that students may know something at 
first hand of the claims of Temple in this dual aspect 
of stylist and critic, that these two essays, long 
inaccessible, have been reprinted from the third 
volume of my Critical Essays of the Seventeenth 
Century. The notes which accompany them in that 
collection appear here also, with a few trifling varia 
tions and excisions, but without any really substantial 
change. 

J. E. SPINGARN. 



I. AN ESSAY UPON THE 
ANCIENT AND MODERN LEARNING 

II. OF POETRY 



SIR WILLIAM TEMPLE 
(1690) 

I. AN ESSAY UPON THE ANCIENT AND MODERN 
LEARNING 

T^ZHOEVER Converses much among the Old Books 
* * will be something hard to please among the New ; 
yet these must have their Part too in the leisure of an idle 
man, and have, many of them, their Beauties as well as / 
their Defaults. Those of Story, or Relations of Matter of 5 
Fact, have a value from their Substance as much as from 
their Form, and the variety of Events is seldom without 
Entertainment or Instruction, how indifferently soever the 
Tale is told. Other sorts of Writings have little of esteem 
but what they receive from the Wit, Learning, or Genius 10 
of the Authors, and are seldom met with of any excellency, 
because they do but trace over the Paths that have been 
beaten by the Ancients, or Comment, Critick, and Flourish 
upon them, and are at best but Copies after those Originals, 
unless upon Subjects never touched by them, such as are 15 
all that relate to the different Constitutions of Religions, v 
Laws, or Governments in several Countries, with all mat 
ters of Controversie that arise upon them. 

Two Pieces that have lately pleased me, abstracted from 
any of these Subjects, are, one in English upon the Antedi- 20 
luvian World, and another in French upon the Plurality of 
Worlds one Writ by a Divine, and the other by a Gentle 
man, but both very finely in their several Kinds and upon 
their several Subjects, which would have made very poor 



On Ancient and Modern Learning 3 

work in common hands. I was so pleased with the last 
(I mean the Fashion of it rather than the Matter, which is old 
and beaten) that I enquired for what else I could of the same 
hand, till I met with a small Piece concerning Poesy, which 
5 gave me the same exception to both these Authors, whom 
I should otherwise have been very partial to. For the 
first could not end his Learned Treatise without a Panegy- 
rick of Modern Learning and Knowledge in comparison 
of the Ancient : And the other falls so grosly into the 

10 censure of the Old Poetry and preference of the New, that 
I could not read either of these Strains without some 
indignation, which no quality among men is so apt to raise 
in me as sufficiency, the worst composition out of the 
pride and ignorance of mankind. But these Two, being 

15 not the only Persons of the Age that defend these Opinions, 
it may be worth examining how far either Reason or 
Experience can be allowed to plead or determin in their 
favour. 

The Force of all that I have met with upon this Subject, 

20 either in Talk or Writing is, First, as to Knowledge. That 
we must have more than the Ancients, because we have the 
Advantage both of theirs and our own, which is commonly 
illustrated by the Similitude of a Dwarfs standing upon a 
Gyants shoulders, and seeing more or farther than he. 

25 Next, as to Wit or Genius, that Nature being still the same, 
these must be much at a Rate in all Ages, at least in the 
same Clymates, as the Growth and Size of Plants and 
Animals commonly are ; And if both these are allowed, 
they think the Cause is gained. But I cannot tell why we 

30 should conclude that the Ancient Writers had not as much 
Advantage from the Knowledge of others that were 
Ancient to them, as we have from those that are Ancient to 
us. The Invention of Printing has not, perhaps, multiplied 
Books, but only the Copies of them ; and if we believe 

35 there were Six Hundred Thousand in the Library of 

B 



4 Sir William Temple 

Ptolomy, we shall hardly pretend to equal it by any of ours, 
nor, perhaps, by all put together; I mean so many Originals 
that have lived any time, and thereby given Testimony 
of their having been thought worth preserving. For the 
Scribblers are infinite, that like Mushrooms or Flys are 5 
born and dye in small circles of time ; whereas Books, like 
Proverbs, receive their Chief Value from the Stamp and 
Esteem of Ages through which they have passed. Besides 
the account of this Library at Alexandria, and others very 
Voluminous in the lesser Asia and Rome, we have frequent 10 
mention of Ancient Writers in many of those Books which 
we now call Ancient, both Philosophers and Historians. 
'Tis true that besides what we have in Scripture concern 
ing the Original and Progress of the Jewish Nation, all 
that passed in the rest of our World before the Trojan 15 
War is either sunk in the depths of time, wrapt up in the 
mysteries of Fables, or so maimed by the want of Testi 
monies and loss of Authors that it appears to us in too 
obscure a shade to make any Judgment upon it. For the 
Fragments of Manethon about the Antiquities of Egypt, 20 
the Relations in Justin concerning the Scythian Empire, 
and many others in Herodotus and Diodorus Siculus, as 
well as the Records of China, make such Excursions beyond 
the periods of time given us by the Holy Scriptures that 
we are not allowed to reason upon them. And this dis- 25 
agreement it self, after so great a part of the World became 
Christian, may have contributed to the loss of many 
Ancient Authors. For Solomon tells us, even in his Time, 
of Writing many Books there was no end; and whoever 
considers the Subject and the Stile of Job, which by many 30 
is thought more ancient than Moses, will hardly think it 
was written in an Age or Country that wanted either Books 
or Learning ; and yet he speaks of the Ancients then, and 
their Wisdome, as we do now. 

But if any should so very rashly and presumptuously con- 35 



On Ancient and Modern Learning 5 

' -.(*- U.^s 

elude, That there were few Books before those we have either 
Extant or upon Record, yet that cannot argue there was 
no Knowledge or Learning before those periods of time, 
whereof they give us the short account. Bonks may be 

5 helps to Learning and Knowledge, and make it more 
common and diffused ; but I doubt whether they are neces 
sary ones or no, or much advance any other Science beyond 
the particular Records of Actions or Registers of time ; 
and these, perhaps, might be as long preserved without 

10 them, by the care and exactness of Tradition in the long 
Successions of certain Races of men with whom they were 
intrusted. So in Mexico and Peru, before the least use or 
mention of Letters, there was remaining among them the 
knowledge of what had passed in those mighty Nations 

15 and Governments for many Ages. Whereas in Ireland, 
that is said to have flourished in Books and Learning 
before they had much Progress in Gaul or Britany, there 
are now hardly any Traces left of what passed there 
before the Conquest made of that Country by the English 

20 in Henry the Second's Time. A strange but plain Demon 
stration how Knowledge and Ignorance, as well as Civility 
and Barbarism, may succeed each other in the several 
Countries of the World, how much better the Records of 
time may be kept by Tradition in one Country than Writing 

25 in another, and how much we owe to those Learned Lan 
guages of Greek and Latin, without which, for ought I know, 
the World in all these Western Parts would hardly be known 
to have been above five or six Hundred Years old, nor any 
certainty remain of what passed in it before that time. 

30 'Tis true, in the Eastern Regions, there seems to have 
been a general Custom of the Priests in each Country 
having been either by their own Choice, or by Design of 
the Governments, the perpetual Conservers of Knowledge 
and Story. Only in China this last was committed particu- 

35 larly to certain Officers of State, who were appointed or 

B 2 



6 Sir William Temple 

continued upon every accession to that Crown to Register 
distinctly the times and memorable Events of each Reign. 
In Ethiopia, Egypt, Caldea, Persia, Syria, Judea, these 
Cares were committed wholly to the Priests, who were not 
less diligent in the Registers of Times and Actions than 5 
in the Study and Successive Propagation thereby of all 
Natural Science and Philosophy. Whether this was managed 
by Letters, or Tradition, or by both, 'tis certain the 
Ancient Colledges, or Societies of Priests, were mighty 
Reservoirs or Lakes of Knowledge, into which some 10 
streams entred perhaps every Age from the Observations 
or Inventions of any great Spirits or transcendent Genius's 
that happened to rise among them : And nothing was lost out 
of these Stores, since the part of conserving what others 
have gained, either in Knowledge or Empire, is as common 15 
and easy as the other is hard and rare among men. 

In these Soyls were planted and cultivated those mighty 
growths of Astronomy, Astrology, Magick, Geometry, Natural 
Philosophy, and Ancient Story. From these Sources Or- 
s pheus, Homer, Lycurgus, Pythagoras, Plato, and others of 20 
the Ancients are acknowledged to have drawn all those 
Depths of Knowledge or Learning which have made them 
so Renowned in all succeeding Ages. I make a Distinc 
tion between these Two, taking Knowledge to be properly- 
meant of things that are generally agreed to be true by 25 
Consent of those that first found them out or have been 
since instructed in them, but Learning is the Knowledge 
of the different and contested Opinions of men in former 
Ages, and about which they have perhaps never agreed in 
any ; and this makes so much of one and so little of the 30 
other in the World. 

Now to judge, Whether the Ancients or Moderns can 

(be probably thought to have made the greatest Progress 
in the Search and Discoveries of the vast Region of Truth 
and Nature, it will be worth inquiring, What Guides have 35 



On Ancient and Modern Learning 7 

been used, and what Labours imploy'd, by the one and the 
other in these Noble Travels and Pursuits. 

The Modern Scholars have their usual Recourse to the 
Universities of their Countries ; some few, it may be, to 

5 those of their Neighbours; and this in quest of Books)) 
rather than Men for their Guides, though these are living ' 
and those in comparison but dead Instructors, which, like 
a Hand with an Inscription, can point out the straight way 
upon the Road, but can neither tell you the next Turnings, 

10 resolve your Doubts, or answer your Questions, like a 
Guide that has traced it over, and perhaps knows it as well 
as his Chamber. And who are these dead Guides we seek 
in our Journey? They are at best but some few Authors 
that remain among us of a great many that wrote in Greek 

15 and Latine from the Age of Hypocrates to that of Marcus 
Antoninus, which reaches not much above Six Hundred 
Years. Before that time I know none, besides some Poets, 
some Fables, and some few Epistles ; and since that time 
I know very few that can pretend to be Authors, rather 

20 than Transcribers or Commentators of the Ancient Learn 
ing. Now, to consider at what Sources our Ancients drew 
their Water, and with what unwearied Pains, 'Tis evident < 
Thales and Pythagoras were the Two Founders of the~ 
Grecian Philosophy : the First gave Beginning to the 

25 lonick Sect and the other to the Itallick, out of which all the 
others celebrated in Greece or Rome were derived or 
composed. Thales was the First of the Sophi, or Wise 
men, Famous in Greece, and is said to have learned his 
Astronomy, Geometry, Astrology, Theology, in his Travels 

30 from his Country, Miletus, to jEgypt, Phoenicia, Crete, and 
Delphos. Pythagoras was the Father of Philosophers and 
of the Vertues, having in Modesty chosen the Name of a 
Lover of Wisdom rather than of Wise, and having first 
introduced the Names of the Four Cardinal Vertues, and 

35 given them the Place and Rank they have held ever since 



8 Sir William Temple 

in the World. Of these Two Mighty men remain no 
Writings at all, for those Golden Verses that go under the 
Name of Pythagoras are generally rejected as spurious, 
like many other Fragments of Sybils or Old Poets, and 
some entire Poems that run with Ancient Names : Nor is 5 
it agreed, Whether he ever left any thing written to his 
Scholars or Contemporaries or whether all that learn't 
of him did it not by the Ear and Memory, and all that 
remained of him for some succeeding Ages were not by 
Tradition. But whether these ever writ or no, they were 10 
the Fountains out of which the following Greek Philoso 
phers drew all those Streams that have since watered 
the Studies of the Learned World, and furnished the 
Voluminous Writings of so many Sects as passed after 
wards under the common Name of Philosophers. 15 

As there were Guides to those that we call Ancients, so 
there were others that were Guides to them, in whose 
Search they travelled far and laboured long. 

There is nothing more agreed than, That all the 
Learning of the Greeks was deduced Originally from Egypt 20 
or Phoenicia-, but, Whether theirs might not have flourished 
to that Degree it did by the Commerce of the Ethiopians, 
Chaldceans, Arabians, and Indians is not so evident, though 
I am very apt to believe it ; and to most of these Regions 
some of the Grecians travelled in Search of those Golden 25 
Mines of Learning and Knowledge. Not to mention the 
Voyages of Orpheus, Musceus, Lycurgus, Thales, Solon, 
Democritus, Herodotus, Plato, and that vain Sophist, 
Apollonius, who was but an Ape of the AncientJPhjloso- 
phers, I shall only trace those of Pythagoras, who seems 30 
of~all others to have gone the farthest upon this Design, 
and to have brought home the greatest Treasures. He 
went first to Egypt, where he spent Two and Twenty 
Years in Study and Conversation among the several 
Colledges of Priests in Memphis, Thebes, and Heliopolis, 35 



On Ancient and Modern Learning 9 

(and) was initiated in all their several Mysteries, in order 
to gain Admittance and Instruction in the Learning 
and Sciences that were there in their highest Ascendent. 
Twelve Years he spent in Babylon and in the Studies and 

5 Learning of the Priests or Magi of the Chaldceans. Besides 
these long abodes in those Two Regions, celebrated for 
ancient Learning, and where one Author, according to 
their Calculations, says, He gained the Observations of 
innumerable Ages, He Travelled likewise upon the same 

10 sent in ^Ethiopia, Arabia, India, to Crete, to Delphos, and 
to all the Oracles that were Renowned in any of these 
Regions. 

What sort of Mortals some of those may have been that 
he went so far to seek, I shall only endeavour to Trace 

15 out by the most ancient Accounts that are given of the 
Indian Brachmans, since those of the Learned or Sages in 
tnlTother Countries occur more frequent in Story. These 
were all of one Race or Tribe, that was kept chast from 
any other mixture, and were dedicated wholly to the 

20 Service of the Gods, to the Studies of Wisdom and 
Nature, and to the Councel of their Princes. There was 
not only particular care taken of their Birth and Nurture, 
but even from their Conception. For when a Woman 
among them was known to have Conceived, much thought 

25 and diligence was imployed about her Diet and Entertain 
ments, so far as to furnish her with pleasant imaginations, 
to compose her mind and her sleeps with the best temper 
during the time she carried her Burthen. This I take to 
be a strain beyond all the Grecian Wit, or the Constitutions 

30 even of their imaginary Law-givers, who began their cares 
of Mankind only after their Birth, and none before. Those 
of the Brachmans continued in the same Degree for their 
Education and Instruction, in which, and their Studies and 
Discipline of their Colledges, or separate abodes in Woods 

35 and Fields, they spent Thirty Seven Years. Their 



io Sir William Temple 

Learning and Institutions were unwritten, and only 
traditional among themselves by a perpetual Succession. 
Their Opinions in Natural Philosophy were, That the 
World was round, That it had a Beginning and would have 
an end, but reckoned both by immense periods of time ; 5 
That the Author of it was a Spirit or a Mind that 
pervaded the whole Universe and was diffused through 
all the Parts of it. They held the Transmigration of 
Souls, and some used discourses of Infernal Mansions, in 
many things like those of Plato. Their Moral Philosophy ro 
consisted chiefly in preventing all Diseases or Distempers 
of the Body, from which they esteemed the perturbation of 
mind in a great measure to arise. Then in composing the 
Mind, and exempting it from all anxious Cares, esteeming 
the troublesome and sollicitous thoughts about Past and 15 
Future to be like so many Dreams, and no more to be 
regarded. They despised both lite and death, pleasure 
and pain, or at least thought them perfectly indifferent. 
Their Justice was exact and exemplary, their Temperance 
so great that they lived upon Rice or Herbs, and upon 20 
nothing that had sensitive Life. If they fell sick, they 
counted it such a Mark of Intemperance that they would 
frequently dye out of Shame and Sullenness, but many 
lived a Hundred and Fifty, and some Two Hundred 
Years. 25 

Their Wisdom was so highly esteemed that some of 
them were always imployed to follow the Courts of their 
Kings, to advise them upon all Occasions, and instruct 
them in Justice and Piety ; and upon this Regard Calanus 
and some others are said to have followed the Camp of 30 
Alexander after his Conquest of one of their Kings. The 
Magical Operations reported of them are so wonderful 
that they must either be wholly disbelieved, or will make 
easie way for the credit of all those that we so often meet 
with in the later Relations of the Indies. Above all the 35 



On Ancient and Modern Learning n 

rest, their Fortitude was most admirable in their Patience 
and Endurance oFall Evils, of Pain, and of Death ; some 
standing, sitting, lying, without any Motion, whole dayes 
together in the scorching Sun ; others standing whole 
5 nights upon one Leg, and holding up a heavy piece of 
Wood or Stone in both hands without ever moving, which 
might be done upon some sort of Penances usual among 
them. They frequently ended their Lives by their own 
Choice and not necessity, and most usually by Fire; some 

10 upon Sickness, others upon Misfortunes, some upon meer 
satiety of Life ; so Calanus, in Alexander's time, burn't 
himself publickly upon growing old and infirm, Zormano- 
chages, in the time of Augustus, upon his constant Health 
and Felicity, and to prevent fiis living so long as to fall 

15 into Diseases or Misfortunes. These were the Brachmans 
of India, by the most Ancient Relations remaining of them, 
and which, Compared with our Modern, since Navigation 
and Trade have discovered so much of those vast Countries, 
make it easie to conjecture that the present Bantams have 

20 derived from them many of their Customs and Opinions, 
which are still very like them after the course of Two 
Thousand Years. For how long Nations, without the 
Changes introduced by Conquest, may continue in the same 
Customs, Institutions, and Opinions, will be easily observed 

25 in the Stories of the Peruvians and Mexicans, of the Chineses 
and Scythians : These last being described by Herodotus to 
lodge always in Carts, and to feed commonly upon the Milk 
of Mares, as the Tartars are reported to do at this time in 
many Parts of those Vast Northern Regions. 

30 From these Famous Indians it seems to me mosf probable 
that Pythagoras learn't, and transported into Greece and 
Italy, the greatest part of his Natural and Moral Philosophy, 
rather than from the Egyptians, as is commonly supposed ; 
For I have not observed any mention of the Transmigration 

35 of Souls held among the Egyptians more ancient tharTthe 



i2 Sir William Temple 

time of Pythagoras : On the contrary, Orpheus is said to 
have brought out of Egypt all his Mystical Theology, with 
the Stories of the Stygian Lake, Charon, the Infernal 
Judges, which were wrought up by the succeeding Poets 
(with a Mixture of the Cretan Tales or Traditions) into that 5 
part of the Pagan Religion so long observed by the Greeks 
and Romans. Now, 'tis obvious that this was in all parts 
very different from the Pythagorean Opinion of Transmi 
gration, which, though it was preserved long among some 
of the succeeding Philosophers, yet never entered into the 10 
vulgar Belief of Greece or Italy. 

Nor does it seem unlikely that the Egyptians themselves 
might have drawn much of their Learning from the Indians, 
for they are observed in some Authors to have done it from 
the Ethiopians ; and Chronologers, I think, agree that 15 
these were a Colony that came anciently from the River 
Indus, and planted themselves upon that Part of Africa 
which from their Name was afterward called Ethiopia, and 
in probability brought their Learning and their Customs 
with them. The Phoenicians are likewise said to have been 20 
anciently a Colony that came from the Red Sea, and planted 
themselves upon the Mediterranean, and from thence spread 
so far the Fame of their Learning and their Navigations. 

To strengthen this Conjecture of much Learning being 
derived from such remote and ancient Fountains as the 25 
Indies and perhaps China, it may be asserted with great 
Evidence that, though we know little of the Antiquities of 
India beyond Alexander's time, yet those of China are the 
oldest that any where pretend to any fair Records : For 
these are agreed by the Missionary Jesuits to extend so 30 
far above Four Thousand Years, and with such Appearance 
of clear and undeniable Testimonies, that those Religious 
Men themselves, rather than question their Truth by 
finding them contrary to the vulgar Chronology of the 
Scripture, are content to have recourse to that of the 35 






On Ancient and Modern Learning 13 

Septuagint, and thereby to salve the Appearances in those 
Records of the Chineses. Now though we have been 
deprived the knowledge of what Course Learning may have 
held, and to what heights it may have soared, in that vast 

5 Region, and during so great Antiquity of time, by reason 
of the Savage Ambition of one of their Kings, who, desirous 
to begin the Period of History from his own Reign, ordered 
all Books to be burnt, except those of Physick and Agri 
culture, so that what we have remaining besides of that 

10 wise and ancient Nation is but what was either by chance 
or by private Industry rescued out of that publick Calamity, 
among which were a Copy of the Records and Successions 
of the Crown, yet it is observable and agreed that, as the 
Opinions of the Learned among them are at present, so 

15 they were anciently divided into two Sects, whereof one 
held the Transmigration of Souls, and the other the 
Eternity of Matter, comparing the World to a great Mass 
of Metal out of which some Parts are continually made up 
into a Thousand various Figures, and after certain Periods 

20 melted down again into the same Mass. That there were 
many Volumes written of old in Natural Philosophy among 
them. That near the Age of Socrates lived their Great 
and Renowned Confutius, who began the same Design of 
reclaiming men from the useless and endless Speculations 

25 of Nature to those of Morality. But with this Difference, 
that the Bent of the Grecian seemed to be chiefly upon the 
Happiness of private Men or Families, but that of the 
Chinese upon the good Temperament and Felicity of such 
Kingdoms or Governments as that was, and is known to 

30 have continued for several Thousands of Years, 'and may 
be properly called a Government of Learned men, since 
no other are admitted into Charges of the State. 

For my own part, I am much inclined to believe that, in 
these Remote Regions, not only Pythagoras learn't the 

35 first Principles both of his Natural and Moral Philosophy, 



14 Sir William Temple 

but that those of Democritus, who Travelled into 
Caldcea, and India, and whose Doctrines were after 
improved by Epicurus, might have been derived from the 
same Fountains, and that long before them both Lycurgus, 
who likewise Travelled into India, brought from thence 5 
also the Chief Principles of his Laws and Politicks, so 
much Renowned in the World. 

IFor whoever observes the Account already given of the 
Ancient Indian and Chinese Learning and Opinions will 
leasily find among them the Seeds of all these Grecian 10 
JProductions and Institutions : As the Transmigration of 
Souls and the four Cardinal Vertues ; The long Silence 
enjoyned his Scholars, and Propagation of their Doctrines 
by Tradition rather than Letters, and Abstinence from all 
Meats that had Animal Life, introduced by Pythagoras] 15 
The Eternity of Matter, with perpetual changes of Form, 
the Indolence of Body, and Tranquility of Mind, by 
Epicurus-, And among those of Lycurgus, the care of 
Education from the Birth of Children, the Austere 
Temperance of Diet, the patient endurance of Toil and 20 
Pain, the neglect or contempt of Life, the use of Gold and 
Silver only in their Temples, the Defence of Commerce 
with Strangers, and several others, by him established 
among the Spartans, seem all to be wholly Indian, and 
different from any Race or Vein of Thought and Imagina- 25 
tion that have ever appeared in Greece, either in that Age 
or any since. 

I It may look like a Paradox to deduce Learning from 
! I Regions accounted commonly so barbarous and rude. 
1 1 And 'tis true the generality of People were always so in 30 
!/ those Eastern Countries, and their lives wholly turned to 
jf Agriculture, to Mechanicks, or to Trades; but this does 
not hinder particular Races or Successions of Men, the 
design of whose thought and time was turned wholly to 
Learning and Knowledge, from having been what they are 35 



On Ancient and Modern Learning 15 

reepresented and what they deserve to be esteemed, since 
among the Gauls, the Goths, and the Peruvians themselves, 
there have been such Races of Men under the Names of 
Druids, Bards, Amautas, Runers, and other barbarous 

5 Appellations. 

Besides, I know no Circumstances like to Contribute 
more to the advancement of Knowledge and Learning 
among men than exact Temperance in their Races, great 
pureness of Air, and equality of Clymate, long Tranquility 

10 of Empire or Government : And all these we may justly 
allow to those Eastern Regions more than any others we 
are acquainted with, at least till the Conquests made by the 
Tartars upon both India and China in the later Centuries. 
However, it may be as pardonable to derive some Parts of 

15 Learning from thence as to go so far for the Game of Chess, 
which some Curious and Learned men have deduced from 
India into Europe by Two several Roads, that is, by Persia 
into Greece, and by Arabia into Africk and Spain. 

Thus much I thought might be allowed me to say, for 

20 the giving some Idaea of what those Sages or Learned Men 
were, or may have been, who were Ancients to those that 
are Ancients to us. Now to observe what these have been 
is more easy and obvious. The most ancient Grecians 
that we are at all acquainted with after Lycurgus, who was 

25 certainly a great Philosopher as well as Law-giver, were 
the seven Sages. Tho' the Court of Croesus is said to 
have been much resorted to by the Sophists of Greece, in 
the happy beginnings of his Reign. And some of these 
seven seem to have brought most of the Sciences out of 

SosEgypt and Phoenicia into Greece, particularly v those of 
Astronomy, Astrology, Geometry, and Arithmetick. These 
were soon followed by Pythagoras, who seems to have 
introduced Natural and Moral Philosophy, and by several 
of his Followers, both in Greece and Italy. But of all these 

35 there remains nothing in Writing now among us, so that 



r6 Sir William Temple 

Hyppocrates, Plato, and Xenophon are the first Philosophers 
whose works have escaped the injuries of time. But that 
we may not conclude the first Writers we have of the 
Grecians were the first Learned or Wise among them, We 
shall find upon inquiry that the more ancient Sages of 5 
Greece appear, by the Characters remaining of them, to 
have been much the greater Men. They were generally 
Princes or Law-givers of their Countries, or at least offered 
and invited to be so, either of their own or of others, that 
desired them to frame or reform their several Institutions 10 
of Civil Government. They were commonly excellent 
Poets and great Physicians; they were so learned in 
Natural Philosophy that they fore-told not only Eclypses 
in the Heavens, but Earthquakes at Land and Storms at 
Sea, great Drowths and great Plagues, much Plenty or 15 
much Scarcity of certain sorts of "Fruits or Grain, not to 
mention the Magical Powers attributed to several of them 
to allay Storms, to raise Gales, to appease Commotions of 
People, to make Plagues cease, which qualities, whether 
upon any ground of Truth or no, yet if well believed must 20 
have raised them to that strange height they were at, of 
common esteem and honour, in their own and succeeding 
Ages. 

By all this may be determined whether our Moderns 
or our Ancients may have had the greater and^the better 25 
Guides, and which of them have taken the greater pains, 
and with the more application in the pursuit of Knowledge. 
And I think it is enough to shew that the advantage we 
have from those we call the Ancients may not be greater I 
than what they had from those that were so to them. 30 

But after all, I do not know whether the high flights of 

jWit and Knowledge, like those of Power and of Empire 

t // in the World, may not have been made by the pure Native 

$ Force of Spirit or Genius in some single men, rather than 

- by any derived strength among them, however encreased 31 



On Ancient and Modern Learning 17 

v, by Succession, and whether they may not have been the 

ML Atchievements of Nature, rather than the improvements 

^ of Art. Thus the Conquests of Ninus and Semiramis, of 

Alexander and Tamerlane, which I take to have been the 

5 greatest Recorded in Story, were at their heighth in those 

Persons that began them, and so far from being encreased 

by their Successors that they were not preserved in their 

extent and vigour by any of them, grew weaker in every 

hand they passed through, or were divided into many that 

10 set up for great Princes out of several small ruins of the 

First Empires, till they withered away in time, or were lost 

by the change of Names and Forms of Families or of 

Governments. 

Just the same Fate seems to have attended the highest 

15 flights of Learning and of Knowledge that are upon our 
Registers. Thales, Pythagoras, Democritus, Hippocrates, 
Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus were the first mighty^Conquerors 
of Ignorance injpur World, and made greater progresses 
in the several J^mpires of Science than any of their 

20 Successors have been since able to reach. These have 
hardly ever pretended more than to learn what the others 
taught, to remember what they invented; and not able 
to compass that it self, they have set up for Authors upon 
some parcels of those great Stocks, or else have contented 

25 themselves only to comment upon those Texts, and make 
the best Copies they could after those Originals. 

I have long thought that the different abilities of Men, 
which we call Wisdom or Prudence, for the conduct of 
Publick Affairs or Private Life, grow directly out of that 

30 little grain of Intellect or Good Sense which they bring 
with them into the World, and that the defect of it in 
Men comes from some want in their Conception or 
Birth. 

Dixitque semel Nascentibus Author, 

35 Quicquid scire licet. 



i8 Sir William Temple 

And though this may be improved or impaired in some 
degree by* accidents of Education, of Study, and of 
Conversation or Business, yet it cannot go beyond the 
reach of its Native Force, no more than Life can beyond 
the period to which it was destined by the strength or 5 
weakness of the seminal Vertue. 

If these speculations should be true, then I know not 
what advantages we can pretend to modern Knowledge, 
by any we receive from the Ancients. Nay, 'tis possible, 
\r men may lose rather than gafn by them, may lessen the 10 
I? Force and Growth of their own Genius by constraining 
\. and forming it upon that of others, may have less Know- 
v> ledge of their own for contenting themselves with that of 
those before them. So a Man that only Translates -shall 
never be a Poet, nor a Painter that only Copies, nor a 15 
Swimmer that Swims always with Bladders. So People 
that trust wholly to others Charity, and without Industry 
of their own, will be always poor. Besides, who can tell 
whether Learning may not even weaken Invention in a 
man that has great Advantages from Nature and Birth, 20 
whether the weight and number of so many other mens 
thoughts and notions may not suppress his own, or 
hinder the motion and agitation of them from which all 
Invention arises; As heaping on Wood, or too many 
Sticks, or too close together, suppresses and sometimes 25 
quite extinguishes a little spark that would otherwise have 
grown up to a noble Flame. The strength of mind as 
well as of body grows more from the warmth of Exercise 
than of Cloaths ; nay, too much of this Foreign heat 
rather makes Men faint, and their Constitutions tender or 30 
weaker than they would be without them. Let it come ' 
about how it will, if we are Dwarfs, we are still so, though 
we stand upon a Gyant's shoulders ; and even so placed, 
yet we see less than he, if we are naturally shorter sighted, 
, or if we do not look as much about us, or if we are dazled 35 



On Ancient and Modern Learning 19 

with the height, which often happens from weakness 
either of Heart or Brain, 

In the growth and stature of Souls as well as Bodies, 
the common productions are of indifferent sizes, that 
5 occasion no gazing nor no wonder. But (tho'} there are 
or have been sometimes Dwarfs and sometimes Gyants in 
the World, yet it does not follow that there must be such 
in every Age nor in every Country. This we can no 
more conclude than that there never have been any, 

10 because there are none now, at least in the compass of 
our present Knowledge or Inquiry. As I believe there 
may have been Gyants at some time and some place or 
other in the World, of such a stature as may not have 
been equalled perhaps again in several Thousands of 

15 Years or in any other Parts, so there may be Gyants in 
Wit and Knowledge, of so over-grown a size as not to be 
equalled again in many successions of Ages or any compass 
of Place or Country. Such, I am sure, Lucretius esteems 
and describes Epicurus to have been, and to have risen like 

20 a Prodigy of Invention and Knowledge, such as had not 
been before nor was like to be again ; and I know not 
why others of the Ancients may not be allowed to have 
been as great in their kinds, and to have built as high, 
though upon different Schemes or Foundations. Because 

25 there is a Stag's head at Amboyse of a most prodigious 
size, and a large Table at Memorancy cut out of the 
thickness of a Vine-stock, is it necessary that there must 
be every Age such a Stag in every great Forest or such 
a Vine in every large Vineyard ; or that the Productions 

30 of Nature in any kind must be still alike, or soirfething 
near it, because Nature is still the same? May there not 
many circumstances concur to one production that do not 
to any other in one or many Ages? In the growth of a 
Tree, there is the native strength of the seed, both from 

35 the kind and from the perfection of its ripening, and 

c 



20 Sir William Temple 

from the health and vigour of the Plant that bore it. 
There is the degree of strength and excellence in that 
Vein of Earth where it first took root ; There is a 
propriety of Soyl, suited to the kind of Tree that grows 
in it ; there is a great favour or dis- favour to its growth 5 
from accidents of Water and of Shelter, from the kind 
ness or unkindness of Seasons, till it be past the need or 
the danger of them. All these, and perhaps many others, 
joyned with the propitiousness of Clymat to that sort of 
Tree, and the length of Age it shall stand and grow, 10 
may produce an Oak, a Fig, or a Plane-tree, that shall 
deserve to be renowned in Story, and shall not perhaps 
be parallel'd in other Countrys or Times. 

May not the same have happened in the production, 
growth, and size of Wit and Genius in the World, or 15 
in some Parts or Ages of it, and from many more circum 
stances that contributed towards it than what may concur 
to the stupendious growth of a Tree or Animal ? May 
there not have been, in Greece or Italy of old, such prodigies 
of Invention and Learning in Philosophy, Mathematicks, 20 
Physick, Oratory, Poetry, that none has ever since 
approached them, as well as there were in Painting, 
Statuary, Architecture, and yet their unparallel'd and 
, inimitable excellencies in these are undisputed ? 

Science and Arts have runtheir circles, and had their 25 
periods in the several Parts~of the World. They are 
generally agreed to have held their course from East to 
West, to have begun in Chaldcea and ^Egypt, to have been 
Transplanted from thence to Greece, from Greece to Rome, 
to have sunk there, and after many Ages to have revived 3 
from those Ashes, and to have sprung up again, both in 
Italy and other more Western Provinces of Europe. 
. When Chaldcea and ^Egypt were Learned and Civil, Greece 
and Rome were as rude and barbarous as all AZgypt and 
Syria now are and have been long. When Greece and 35 



On Ancient and Modern Learning 21 

Rome were at their heights in Arts and Science, Gaul, 
Germany, Britain were as ignorant and barbarous as any 
Parts of Greece or Turkey can be now. 
These and greater changes are made in the several 

5 Countries of the World and courses of time by the 
Revolutions of Empire, the Devastations of Armies, the 
Cruelties of Conquering, and the Calamities of enslaved 
Nations, by the violent inundations of Water in some 
Countries, and the Cruel Ravages of Plagues in others. 

10 These sorts of accidents sometimes lay them so waste 
that, when they rise again, 'tis from such low beginnings 
that they look like New-Created Regions, or growing out 
of the Original State of Mankind, and without any 
Records or Remembrances beyond certain short periods 

15 of time. Thus that vast Continent of Norway is said to 
have been so wholly desolated by a Plague about Eight 
or Nine Hundred Years ago, that it was for some Ages 
following a very Desart, and since all over-grown with 
Wood ; And Ireland was so spoiled and wasted by the 

20 Conquests of the Scutes and Danes, that there hardly 
remains any Story or Tradition what that Island was, 
how Planted or Governed, above Five Hundred Years 
ago. What changes have been made by Violent Storms 
and Inundations of the Sea in the Maritine Provinces of 

25 the Low-Countrys is hard to know, or to believe what is 
told, nor how ignorant they have left us of all that passed 
there before a certain and short period of time. 

The Accounts of many other Countries would, perhaps, 
as hardly and as late have waded out of the Depths of 

3 o Time and Gulphs of Ignorance, had it not been "for the 
Assistance of those two Languages to which we owe all 
we have of Learning or Ancient Records in the World. 
For whether we have any thing of the Old Chaldaan, 
Hebrew, Arabian that is truly Genuine, or more Ancient 

35 than the Augustan Age, I am much in doubt ; yet 'tis 

c 2 



22 Sir William Temple 

probable the vast Alexandrian Library must have chiefly 
consisted of Books composed in those Languages, with 
the ^Egyptian, Syrian, and jEthiopick, or at least Trans 
lated out of them by the Care of the ^Egyptian Kings or 
Priests, as the Old Testament was, wherein the Septuagints 5 
employed left their Name to that Famous Translation. 

'Tis very true and just, All that is said of the mighty 
Progress that Learning and Knowledge have made ia-. 
these Western Parts of Europe within these hundred and 
fifty Years; but that does not conclude it must be at 10 
greater H eighth than it had been in other Countries, 
where it was growing much longer Periods of Time ; it 
argues more how low it was then amongst us rather than 
how high it is now. 

Upon the Fall of the Roman Empire, almost all Learn- 15 
ing was buried in its Ruines : The Northern Nations that 
Conquered, or rather overwhelmed it by their Numbers, 
were too barbarous to preserve the Remains of Learning 
or Civility more carefully than they did those of Statuary 
or Architecture, which fell before their Brutish Rage. 20 
The Saracens, indeed, from their Conquests of ^Egypt, 
Syria, and Greece carried home great Spoils of Learning 
as well as other Riches, and gave the Original of all that 
Knowledge which flourished for some time among the 
Arabians, and has since been copied out of many Authors 25 
among them, as theirs had been out of those of the 
Countries they had subdued ; nor, indeed, do Learning, 
Civility, Morality seem any where to have made a greater 
Growth in so short a Time than in that Empire, nor to 
have flourished more than in the Reign of their Great 30 
Almanzor, under whose Victorious Ensigns Spain was 
Conquered by the Moors ; but the Goths, and all the 
rest of those Scythian Swarms that from beyond the 
Danube and the Elb, under so many several Names, 
over-run all Europe, took very hardly and very late 35 



On Ancient and Modern Learning 23 

any Tincture of the Learning and Humanity that had 
flourished in the several Regions of it, under the Protec 
tion and by the Example and Instructions of the Romans 
that had so long possessed them. Those Northern Nations 
5 were indeed easier induced to embrace the Religion of 
those they had subdued, and by their Devotion gave 
great Authority and Revenues and thereby Ease to the 
Clergy, both Secular and Regular, through all their 
Conquests. Great Numbers of the better sort among the 

10 Oppressed Natives, finding this vein among them, and no 
other way to be safe and quiet under such rough Masters, 
betook themselves to the Profession and Assemblies of 
Religious Orders and Fraternities, and among those 
onely were preserved all the poor Remainders of Learning 

15 in these several Countries. 

But these good men either contented themselves with 
their Devotion or with the Ease of quiet Lives, or else 
employed their Thoughts and Studies to raise and main 
tain the Esteem and Authority of that Sacred Order to 

20 which they owed the Safety and Repose, the Wealth 
and Honour they enjoyed. And in this they so well 
succeeded, that the Conquerors were governed by those 
they had subdued, the Greatest Princes by the Meanest 
Priests, and the Victorious Franks and Lombard Kings 

25 fell at the feet of the Roman Prelates. 

Whilst the Clergy were busied in these Thoughts or 
Studies, the better sort among the Laity were wholly 
turned to Arms and to Honour, the meaner sort to Labour 
or to Spoil; Princes taken up with Wars among them- 

30 selves, or in those of the Holy Land, or between the 
Popes and Emperors, upon Disputes of the Ecclesiastical 
and Secular Powers; Learning so little in use among 
them that few could write or read, besides those of the 
Long Robes. During this Course of Time, which lasted 

35 many Ages in the Western Parts of Europe, The Greek 



24 Sir IV tilt am Temple 

Tongue was wholly lost, and the Purity of the Roman 
to that degree that what remained of it was onely a certain 
Jargon rather than Latin, that passed among the Monks 
and Fryers who were at all Learned, and among the 
Students of the several Universities, which served to 5 
carry them to Rome in pursuit of Preferments or Causes 
depending there, and little else. 

When the Turks took Constantinople about two hundred 
Years ago, and soon after possessed themselves of all 
^Greece, the poor Natives, fearing the Tyranny of those 10 
cruel Masters, made their Escapes in great Numbers to 
the Neighbouring parts of Christendom, some by the 
Austrian Territories into Germany, others by the Venetian 
into Italy and France; several that were Learned among 
these Grecians, and brought many Ancient Books with 15 
them in that Language, began to teach it in these 
Countries, first to gain Subsistence, and afterwards 
Favour in some Princes or Great mens Courts, who 
began to take a Pleasure or Pride in countenancing 
Learned men. Thus began the Restoration of Learning 20 
in these Parts with that of the Greek Tongue ; and soon 
after, Reuchlyn and Erasmus began that of the purer and 
ancient Latin. After them Buchanan carried it, I think, 
to the greatest Heighth of any of the Moderns before 
or since. The Monkish Latin, upon this Return, was 25 
laughed out of doors, and remains only in the Inns of 
Germany or Poland', and with the Restitution of these 
two Noble Languages and the Books remaining of them, 
which many Princes and Prelates were curious to recover 
and collect, Learning of all sorts began to thrive in these 30 
Western Regions, and since that time, and in the first 
succeeding Century, made perhaps a greater growth than 
in any other that we know of in such a compass of Time, 
considering into what Depths of Ignorance it was sunk 
before. 35 



T 



On Ancient and Modern Learning 25 

But why from thence should be concluded, That it has 
out-grown all that was Ancient, I see no Reason. If a 
' Strong and Vigorous man at Thirty Years old should 
fall into a Consumption, and so draw on till Fifty in the 
5 extreamest Weakness and Infirmity, after that should 
begin to Recover Health till Sixty, so as to be again as 
Strong as men usually are at that Age, It might perhaps 
truly be said in that case that he had grown more in 
Strength that last Ten Years than any others of his 

10 Life, but not that he was grown to more Strength and. 
Vigour than he had at Thirty Years old. 

But what are the Sciences wherein we pretend to excel ? 
I know of no New Philosophers that have made Entries 
upon that Noble Stage for Fifteen Hundred Years past, 

15 unless Des Cartes and Hobbs should pretend to it, ot 
whom I shall make no Critick here, but only say, That 
by what appears of Learned Mens Opinions in this Age, 
they have by no means eclypsed the Lustre of Plato, 
Aristotle, Epicurus, or others of the Ancients. For 

20 Grammar or Rhetorick, no man ever disputed it with 
them, nor for Poetry, that ever I heard of, besides the 
New French Author I have mentioned, and against whose 
Opinion there could, I think, never have been given 
stronger Evidence than by his own Poems, Printed to- 

25 gether with that Treatise. 

There is nothing new in Astronomy to vye with the^ 
Ancients, unless it be the Copernican System; nor in 
Physick, unless Hervy's Circulation of the blood. But ^ 
whether either of these be modern discoveries, or derived 

30 from old Fountains, is disputed : Nay, it is 'so, too, 
whether they are true or no; for though reason may 
seem to favour them more than the contrary Opinion, 
yet sense can very hardly allow them ; and to satisfie 
Mankind, both these must concur. But if they are true, 

35 yet these two great discoveries have made no change 



26 Sir William Temple 

in the conclusions of Astronomy, nor in the practise of 
Physick, and so have been of little use to the World, 
though perhaps of much honour to the Authors. 

What are become of the Charms of Musick, by which 
Men and Beasts, Fishes, Fowls, and Serpents were so 5 
frequently Enchanted, and their very Natures changed ; 
By which the Passions of men were raised to the greatest 
heigth and violence, and then as suddenly appeased, so 
as they might be justly said to be turned into Lyons or 
Lambs, into Wolves or into Harts, by the Power and 10 
f Charms of this admirable Art ? 'Tis agreed by the 
| Learned that the Science of Musick, so admired of the 
Ancients, is wholly lost in the World, and that what we 
have now is made up out of certain Notes that fell into 
the fancy or observation of a poor Fryar in chanting 15 
his Mattins. So as those Two Divine Excellencies of 
Musick and Poetry are grown in a manner to be little 
more, but the one Fidling, and the other Rhyming ; and 
are indeed very worthy the ignorance of the Fryer and 
the barbarousness of the Goths that introduced them 20 
among us. 

What have we remaining of Magick, by which the 
Indians, the Chaldceans, the ^Egyptians were so renowned, 
and by which effects so wonderful and to common men so 
astonishing were produced, as made them have recourse 25 
to Spirits or Supernatural Powers for some account of 
their strange Operations ? By Magick I mean some 
excelling knowledge of Nature and the various Powers 
and Qualities in its several productions, and the appli 
cation of certain Agents to certain Patients, which by 30 
force of some peculiar qualities produce effects very 
different from what fall under vulgar Observation or 
Comprehension. These are by ignorant People called 
Magick and Conjuring, and such like Terms, and an 
Account of them much about as wise is given by the 35 



On Ancient and Modern Learning 27 

common Learned, from Sympathies, Antipathies, Idiosyn- 
crasys, Talismans, and some scraps or Terms left us by 
the ^Egyptians or Grecians of the Ancient Magick ; but 
the Science seems, with several others, to be wholly lost. 
5 What Traces have we left of that admirable Science 
or Skill in Architecture, by which such stupendious 
Fabricks have been raised of old and so many of the 
Wonders of the World been produced, and which are 
so little approached by our Modern Atchievements of 

10 this sort, that they hardly fall within our Imagination ? 
Not to mention the Walls and Palace of Babylon, the 
Pyramids of Egypt, the Tomb of Mausolus, or Collosse 
of Rhodes, the Temples and Palaces of Greece and Rome : 
What can be more admirable in this kind than the Roman 

15 Theatres, their Aqueducts, and their Bridges, among 
which that of Trajan over the Danube seems to have 
been the last Flight of the Ancient Architecture ? The 
stupendious Effects of this Science sufficiently evince at 
what Heighths the Mathematicks were among the Ancients ; 

20 but if this be not enough, who-ever would be satisfied 
need go no further than the Siege of Syracuse, and that 
mighty Defence made against the Roman Power, more 
by the wonderful Science and Arts of Archimedes, and 
almost Magical Force of his Engines, than by all the 

25 Strength of the City, or Number and Bravery of the 
Inhabitants. 

The greatest Invention that I know of in later Agesr 
has been that of the Load-Stone, and consequently the> 
greatest Improvement has been made in the Art of Navi- 

30 gation ; yet there must be allowed to have been something 
stupendious in the Numbers and in the Built of their Ships 
and Gallies of old ; and the Skill of Pylots, from the 
Observation of the Stars in the more serene Clymates, 
may be judged by the Navigations, so celebrated in Story, 

35 of the Tynans and Carthagenians, not to mention other 










28 Sir William Temple 

Nations. However, 'tis to this we owe the Discovery 
and Commerce of so many vast Countries which were 
very little if at all known to the Ancients, and the 
experimental Proof of this Terrestrial Globe, which was 
before only Speculation, but has since been surrounded 5 
by the Fortune and Boldness of several Navigators. 
From this great though fortuitous Invention, and the 
t consequence thereof, it must be allowed that Geography 
, is mightily advanced in these latter Ages. The Vast 
Continents of China, the East and West Indies, the long 10 
Extent and Coasts of Africa, with the numberless Islands 
belonging to them, have been hereby introduced into our 
Acquaintance and our Maps, and great Increases of 
Wealth and Luxury, but none of Knowledge, brought 
among us, further than the Extent and scituation of 15 
Country, the customs and manners of so many original 
Nations, which we call Barbarous, and I am sure have 
treated them as if we hardly esteem them to be a part 
of Mankind. I do not doubt but many Great and more 
Noble Uses would have been made of such Conquests 20 
or Discoveries, if they had fallen to the share of the 
Greeks and Romans in those Ages when Knowledge and 
Fame were in as great Request as endless Gains and 
'Wealth are among us now; and how much greater 
Discoveries might have been made by such Spirits as 25 
theirs is hard to guess. I am sure ours, though great, 
yet look very imperfect, as to what the Face of this 
Terrestrial Globe would probably appear, if they had 
been pursued as far as we might justly have expected 
from the Progresses of Navigation since the Use of the 30 
Compass, which seems to have been long at a stand. 
How little has been performed of what has been so 
often and so confidently promised of a North-West 
Passage to the East of Tartary and North of China ! 
How little do we know of the Lands on that side of the 35 



On Ancient and Modern Learning 29 

Magellan Straits that lye towards the South Pole, which 
may be vast Islands or Continents for ought any can yet 
aver, though that Passage was so long since found out! 
Whether Japan be Island or Continent, with some Parts 

5 of Tartary on the North side, is not certainly agreed. 
The Lands of Yedso upon the North-East Continent have 
been no more than Coasted, and whether they may not 
joyn to the Northern Continent of America is by some 
doubted. 

10 But the Defect or Negligence seems yet to have been 
greater towards the South, where we know little beyond 
Thirty Five Degrees, and that only by the Necessity of 
doubling the Cape of Goodhope in our East-India Voyages ; 
yet a Continent has been long since found out within 

15 Fifteen Degrees to South, and about the Length of Java, 
which is marked by the Name of New Holland in the 
Maps, and to what Extent none knows, either to the 
South, the East, or the West ; yet the Learned have been 
of Opinion, That there must be a Ballance of Earth on 

20 that side of the Line, in some Proportion to what there 
is on the other, and that it cannot be all Sea from Thirty 
Degrees to the South-Pole, since we have found Land 
to above Sixty Degrees towards the North. But our 
Navigators that way have been confined to the Roads of 

25 Trade, and our Discoveries bounded by what we can 
manage to a certain Degree of Gain. And I have heard 
it said among the Dutch that their East-India-Company 
have long since forbidden, and under the greatest 
Penalties, any further Attempts of discovering that 

30 Continent, having already more Trade in those Parts 
than they can turn to Account, and fearing some more 
Populous Nation of Europe might make great Establish 
ments of Trade in some of those unknown Regions which 
might ruine or impair what they have already in the 

35 Indies. 




30 Sir William Temple 

Thus we are lame still in Geography it self, which we 
might have expected to run up to so much greater Per 
fection by the Use of the Compass ; and it seems to have 
been little advanced these last Hundred Years. So far 
have we been from improving upon those Advantages we 5 
have received from the Knowledge of the Ancients, that 
since the late Restoration of Learning and Arts among 
us, our first Flights seem to have been the highest, and 
a sudden Damp to have fallen upon our Wings, which 
has hindered us from rising above certain Heights. The 10 
Arts of Painting and Statuary began to revive with Learn 
ing in Europe, and made a great but short Flight, so as 
for these last Hundred Years we have not had One 
Master in either of them who deserved a Rank with 
those that flourished in that short Period after they began 15 
among us. 

were too great a Mortification to think, That the 

me Fate has happened to us, even in our Modern 
ing, as if the Growth of that, as well as of Natural 
Bodies, had some short Periods beyond which it could 20 
not reach, and after which it must begin to decay. It 
falls in one Country or one Age, and rises again in 
others, but never beyond a certain Pitch. One Man or 
one Country at a certain Time runs a great Length in 
some certain Kinds of Knowledge, but lose as much 25 
Ground in others that were perhaps as useful and as 
valuable. There is a certain Degree of Capacity in the 
greatest Vessel, and when 'tis full, if you pour in still, it 
must run out some way or other; and the more it runs 
out on one side, the less runs out at the other. So the 30 
greatest Memory, after a certain Degree, as it learns or 
retains more of some Things or Words, loses and forgets 
as much of others. The largest and deepest Reach of 
Thought, the more it pursues some certain Subjects, the 
more it neglects others. 35 



On Ancient and Modern Learning 31 

Besides, few men or none excel in all Faculties of 
Mind. A great Memory may fail of Invention, both may 
want Judgment to Digest or Apply what they Remember 
or Invent. Great Courage may want Caution, great 
5 Prudence may want Vigour, yet all are necessary to make 
a great Commander. But how can a man hope to excel 
in all qualities, when some are produced by the heat, 
others by the coldness, of Brain and Temper? The 
abilities of man must fall short on one side or other, 

10 like too scanty a Blanket when you are a Bed : if you 
pull it upon your Shoulders, you leave your Feet bare ; 
if you thrust it down upon your Feet, your Shoulders are 
uncovered. 

But what would we have, unless it be other Natures 

15 and Beings than God Almighty has given us? The 
heigth of our Statures may be six or seven Foot, and 
we would have it sixteen ; the length of our Age may 
reach to a hundred Years, and we would have it a 
thousand. We are born to grovel upon the Earth, and 

ao we would fain soar up to the Skies. We cannot compre 
hend the growth of a Kernel or Seed, the Frame of 
an Ant or Bee-, we are amazed at the Wisdom of the 
one and Industry of the other, and yet we will know the 
Substance, the Figure, the Courses, the Influences of all 

25 those Glorious Ccelestial Bodies, and the end for which 
they were made ; we pretend to give a clear Account how 
Thunder and Lightning (that great Artillery of God 
Almighty) is produced, and we cannot comprehend how 
the Voice of a man is Framed, that poor little noise we make 

30 every time we speak. The motion of the Sun is plain and 
evident to some Astronomers, and of the Earth to others, 
yet we none of us know which of them moves, and meet 
with many seeming impossibilities in both, and beyond 
the fathom of human reason or comprehension. Nay, 

35 we do not so much as know what Motion is, nor how a 



32 Sir William Temple 

stone moves from our hand when we throw it cross the 
Street. Of all these that most Ancient and Divine Writer 
' gives the best Account in that short Satyr, Vain man 
would fain be wise, when he is born like a wild Asses Colt. 

But God be thanked, his Pride is greater than his 5 
ignorance ; and what he wants in Knowledge he supplies / 
by Sufficiency. When he has looked about him as far as 1 
he can, he concludes there is no more to be seen ; when ( 
he is at the end of his Line, he is at the bottom of the 
Ocean ; when he has shot his best, he is sure none ever 10 
did nor ever can shoot better or beyond it. His own 
Reason is the certain measure of truth, his own Know 
ledge, of what is possible in Nature, though his mind and 
his thoughts change every seven Years as well as his 
strength and his features ; nay, though his Opinions 15 
change every Week or every Day, yet he is sure, or at 
least confident, that his present thoughts and conclusions 
are just and true, and cannot be deceived ; And among all 
the miseries to which mankind is born and subjected in 
the whole course of his life, he has this one Felicity to 20 
Comfort and Support him, That in all ages, in all things, 
> every man is always in the right. A Boy of fifteen is 
wiser than his Father at forty, the meanest Subject than 
his Prince or Governours; and the modern Scholars, 
because they have for a Hundred Years past learned their 25 
Lesson pretty well, are much more knowing than the 
Ancients, their Masters. 

But let it be so, and proved by good reasons, Is it so by 
experience too? 'Have the Studies, the Writings, the 
Productions of Gresham Colledge, or the late Academies of 30 
Paris, outshined or eclypsed the Lycaeum of Plato, the 
Academy of Aristotle, the Stoa of Zeno, the Garden of 
Epicurus ? J3as Hervy outdone Hippocrates, or Wilkins, 
Archimedes? :Are D'avila's and Strada's Histories beyond 
those of Herodotus and Livy ? Are Sleyden's Commen- 35 



On Ancient and Modern Learning 33 

taries beyond those of Ccesart The Flights of Boilcau 
above those of Virgil? If all this must be allowed, I will 
then yield Gondibert to have excelled Homer, as it pre 
tended, and the modern French Poetry, all that of the 

5 Ancients. And yet, I think, it may be as reasonably said, 
That the Plays in Moor-Fields are beyond the Olympick 
Games ; A Welsh or Irish Harp excels those of Orpheus 
and Arion ; The Pyramid in London, those of Memphis ; 
and the French Conquests in Flanders are greater than 

10 those of Alexander and Ccesar, as their Opera's and Panegy- 
ricks would make us believe. 

But the Consideration of Poetry ought to be a Subject ) J 
by it self. For the Books we have in Prose, Do any of j^ 
the modern we Converse with appear of such a Spirit and 

15 Force as if they would live longer than the Ancient have 
done? If our Wit and Eloquence, our knowledge or. 
Inventions would deserve it, yet our Languages would 
not; there is no hope of their lasting long, nor of any/ 



thing in them ; they change every Hundred Years so as 

20 to be hardly known for the same, or any thing of the 
former Styles to be endured by the later ; so as they can 
no more last like the Ancients, than excellent Carvings in 
Wood like those in Marble or Brass. 

The three modern Tongues most esteemed are Italian, 

25 Spanish, and French, all imperfect Dialects of the Noble 
Roman : first mingled and corrupted with the harsh 
Words and Terminations of those many different and 
barbarous Nations by whose Invasions and Excursions the 
Roman Empire was long infested, They were afterwards 

30 made up into these several Languages, by long and 
popular use, out of those ruins and corruptions of Latin 
and the prevailing Languages of those Nations to which 
these several Provinces came in time to be most and 
longest subjected, as the Goths and Moors in Spain, the 

35 Goths and Lombards in Italy, the Franks in Gaul, besides 



34 Sir William Temple 

a mingle of those Tongues which were Original to Gaul 
and to Spain before the Roman Conquests and Establish 
ments there. Of these there may be some Remainders in 
Biscay or the Asturias ; but I doubt whether there be any 
of the old Gallick in France, the Subjection there having 5 
been more Universal, both to the Romans and Franks. 
But I do not find the Mountainous Parts on the North of 
Spain were ever wholly subdued or formerly Governed 
either by the Romans, Goths, or Saracens, no more than 
Wales by Romans, Saxons, or Normans, after their Con- 10 
quests in our Islands : which has preserved the ancient 
Biscayn and British more entire than any Native Tongue 
of other Provinces where the Roman and Gothick or 
Northern Conquests reached and were for any time 
Established. 15 

J Tis easy to imagine how imperfect Copies these modern 
Languages, thus composed, must needs be of so excellent an 
Original, being patcht up out of the Conceptions as well as 
Sounds of such barbarous or enslaved People. Whereas 
the Latin was framed or cultivated by the thoughts and 20 
uses of the Noblest Nation that appears upon any Record 
of Story, and enriched only by the Spoyls of Greece, which 
alone could pretend to contest it with them. 'Tis obvious 
enough what rapport there is, and must ever be, between 
the thoughts and words, the Conceptions and Languages 25 
of every Country, and how great a difference this must 
make in the Comparison and Excellence of Books, and 
how easy and just a preference it must decree to those of 
the Greek and Latin before any of the modern Languages. 

It may, perhaps, be further affirmed in Favour of the 30 
Ancients, that the oldest Books we have are still in their 
kind the best. The two most ancient that I know of in 
Prose, among those we call prophane Authors, are ^Esop's 
Fables and Phalaris's Epistles, both living near the same 
time, which was that of Cyrus and Pythagoras. As the 35 



On Ancient and Modern Learning 35 

first has been agreed by all Ages since for the greatest 
Master in his kind, and all others of that sort have been 
but imitations of his Original, /iso I think the Epistles of 
Phalaris to have more Race, more Spirit, more Force of 
5 Wit and Genius, than any others I have ever seen, either 
ancient or modern. I know several Learned men (or 
that usually pass for such, under the Name of Criticks) 
have not esteemed them Genuine, and Politian with some 
others have attributed them to Lucian. But I think he 

10 must have little skill in Painting, that cannot find out this 
to be an Original ; such diversity of Passions upon such 
variety of Actions and Passages of Life and Government, 
such Freedom of Thought, such Boldness xrf Expression, 
such Bounty to his Friends, such Scorn of his Enemies, 

15 such tjonour_of Learned men, such esteem of Good, 
such Knowledge^oTXIfe, such Contempt of Death, with 
such Fierceness of Nature and Cruelty of Revenge, could 
never be represented but by him that possessed them ; and 
I esteem Lucianto have been no more Capable of Writing 

20 than of Acting what Phalaris did. In all one Writ you 
find the Scholar or the Sophist ; and in all the other, the 
Tyrant and the Commander. 

The next to these in Time are Herodotus, Thucidides, 
Hippocrates, Plato, Xenophon, and Aristotle, of whom I 

25 shall say no more than what I think is allowed by all, that 
they are in their several kinds inimitable. So are Ccesar, 
Salust, and Cicero in theirs, who are the Ancientest of the 
Latin (I speak still of Prose), unless it be some little of old 
Cato upon Rustick Affairs. v 

30 The Height and Purity of the Roman Style, as it began 
towards the Time of Lucretius, which was about that of the 
Jugurthin War, so it ended about that of Tyberius ; and 
the last strain of it seems to have been Velleius Paterculus. 
The Purity of the Greek lasted a great deal longer, and 

35 must be allowed till Trajan's Time, when Plutarch wrote, 



36 Sir William Temple 

whose Greek is much more esteemable than the Latin of 
Tacitus, his Contemporary. After this last, I know none 
that deserves the Name of Latin, in comparison of what 
went before them, especially in the Augustan Age ; If any, 
'tis the little Treatise of Minutius Fcelix. All Latin Books 5 
that we have till the end of Trajan, and all Greek till the 

' end of Marcus Antoninus, have a true and very esteemable 
Value. All written since that time seem to me to have 
little more than what conies from the Relation of Events 

</we are glad to know, or the Controversy of Opinions in 10 
Religion or Laws, wherein the busie World has been so 
much imployed. 

The great Wits among the moderns have been, in my 
Opinion, and in their several kinds, of the Italians, Boccace, 
Machiavel, and Padre Paolo-, among the Spaniards, Cer- 15 
vantes, that writ Don Quixot, and Guevara] among the 
French, Rablais and Montagne ; among the English, Sir 
Philip Sidney, Bacon, and Selden. I mention nothing of 
what is written upon the Subject of Divinity, wherein the 
Spanish and English Pens have been most Conversant and 20 
most Excelled. The Modern French are Voiture, Rock- 
faucalfs Memoirs, Bussy's Amours de Gaul, with several 
other little Relations or Memoirs that have run this Age, 
which are very pleasant and entertaining, and seem to 
have Refined the French Language to a degree that 25 
cannot be well exceeded. I doubt it may have happened 
there, as it does in all Works, that the more they are filed 
and polished, the less they have of weight and of strength ; 
and as that Language has much more fineness and 
smoothness at this time, so I take it to have had much 30 
more force, spirit, and compass in Montagne's Age. 

Since those accidents which contributed to the Restora 
tion of Learning, almost extinguished in the Western 
Parts of Europe, have been observed, it will be just to 
mention some that may have hindred the advancement of 35 



On Ancient and Modern Learning 37 

it, in proportion to what might have been expected from 
the mighty growth and progress made in the first Age 
after its recovery. One great reason may have been 
that very soon after the entry of Learning upon the Scene 
5 of Christendom, another was made by many of the New- 
Learned men into the inquiries and contests about 
matters of Religion, the manners and maxims and 
institutions introduced by the Clergy for seven or eight 
Centuries past, The Authority of Scripture and Tradition, 

10 Of Popes and of Councels, Of the ancient Fathers and of 
the later School-men and Casuists, Of Ecclesiastical and 
Civil Power. The humour of ravelling into all these 
mystical or entangled Matters, mingling with the Inter 
ests and Passions of Princes and of Parties, and thereby 

15 heightned or inflamed, produced Infinite Disputes, raised 
violent Heats throughout all Parts of Christendom, and 
soon ended in many Defections or Reformations from the 
Roman Church, and in several new Institutions, both 
Ecclesiastical and Civil, in diverse Countries, which have 

20 been since Rooted and Established in almost all the North- 
West Parts. The endless Disputes and litigious Quarrels 
upon all these Subjects, favoured and encouraged by the 
Interests of the several Princes engaged in them, either 
took up wholly or generally imployed the Thoughts, the 

25 Studies, the Applications, the endeavours of all or most of 
the finest Wits, the deepest Scholars, and the most Learned 
Writers that the Age produced. Many excellent Spirits, 
and the most penetrating Genys, that might have made 
admirable Progresses and Advances in many other Scjences, 

30 were sunk and overwhelmed in the abyss of Disputes 
about matters of Religion, without ever turning their 
Looks or Thoughts any other way. To these Disputes of 
the Pen succeeded those of the Sword ; and the Ambition ^ 
of great Princes and Ministers, mingled with the Zeal or 

35 covered with the pretences of Religion, has for a Hundred 

D 2 



38 Sir William Temple 

Years past infested Christendom with almost a perpetual 
Course or Succession either of Civil or of Foreign Wars : 
the noise and disorders thereof have been ever the 
most capital Enemies of the Muses, who are seated by the 
ancient Fables upon the top of Parnassus, that is, in a 5 
place of safety and of quiet from the reach of all noises 
and disturbances of the Regions below. 

Another circumstance that may have hindred the 
advancement of Learning has been a want or decay of 
Favour in great Kings and Princes to encourage or 10 
applaud it. Upon the first return or recovery of this 
fair Stranger among us, all were fond of seeing her, apt to 
applaud her : she was lodged in Palaces instead of Cells, 
and the greatest Kings and Princes of the Age took either 
a pleasure in courting her or a vanity in admiring her 15 
and in favouring all her Train. The Courts of Italy and 
Germany, of England, of France, of Popes and of Emperors 
thought themselves Honoured and Adorned by the Num 
ber and Qualities of Learned men, and by all the improve 
ments of Sciences and Arts wherein they excelled. They 20 
were invited from all Parts, for the Use and Entertainment 
of Kings, for the Education and Instruction of Young 
Princes, for Advice and Assistance to the greatest Mini 
sters; and in short, the Favour of Learning was the 
humour and mode of the Age. Francis the First, Charles 25 
the Fifth, and Henry the Eighth, those three great 
Rivals, agreed in this, though in nothing else. Many 
Nobles pursued this Vein with great Application and 
Success, among whom Picus de Mirandula, a Sovereign 
Prince in Italy, might have proved a Prodigy of Learning, if 30 
his Studies and Life had lasted as long as those of the 
Ancients : For I think all of them that writ much of what 
we have now remaining lived old, whereas he dyed about 
Three and Thirty, and left the World in admiration of so 
much knowledge in so much youth. Since those Reigns 35 



On Ancient and Modern Learning 39 

I have not observed in our modern Story any Great 
Princes much Celebrated for their Favour of Learning, 
further than to serve their turns, to justifie their Pre 
tensions and Quarrels, or flatter their Successes. The 
5 Honour of Princes has of late struck Sale to their 
Interest, whereas of old their Interests, Greatness, and 
Conquests were all Dedicated to their Glory and Fame. 

How much the Studies and Labours of Learned men 
must have been damped for want of this influence and 

10 kind aspect of Princes may be best conjectured from what 
happened on the contrary about the Augustan Age, when 
the Learning of Rome was at its height, and perhaps owed 
it in some Degree to the Bounty and Patronage of that 
Emperor, and Meccenas, his Favourite, as well as to the 

15 Felicity of the Empire and Tranquility of the Age. 

The humour of Avarice and greediness of Wealth have 
been ever and in all Countries where Silver and Gold have 
been in Price and of current use. But if it be true in parti 
cular Men, that as Riches encrease, the desires of them do 

20 so too, May it not be true of the general Vein and Humour 
of Ages ? May they not have turned more to this pursuit of 
insatiable gains, since the Discoveries and Plantations of 
the West-Indies, and those vast Treasures that have flowed 
in to these Western Parts of Europe almost every Year 

25 and with such mighty Tides for so long a course of time? 
Where few are rich, few care for it ; where many are so, 
many desire it ; and most in time begin to think it 
necessary. Where this Opinion grows generally in a( N 
Countrey, the Temples of Honour are soon pulled down, 

30 and all mens Sacrifices are made to those of Fortune : 
The Souldier as well as the Merchant, the Scholar as well 
as the Plough-man, the Divine and the States-man as 
well as the Lawyer and Physician. 

Now I think that nothing is more evident in the World 

35 than that Honour is a much stronger Principle, both of 








40 5Vr William Temple 

Action and Invention, than gain can ever be. That all 
the Great and Noble Productions of Wit and of Courage 
have been inspired and exalted by that alone. That the 
Charming Flights and Labours of Poets, the deep Specu 
lations and Studies of Philosophers, the Conquests of 5 
Emperors and Atchievements of Heroes, have all flowed 
from this one Source of Honour and Fame. The last 
Farewel that Horace takes of his Lyrick Poems, Epicurus 
of his Inventions in Philosophy, Augustus of his Empire 
and Government, are all of the same strain ; and as their 10 
Lives were entertained, so their Age was relieved and 
their Deaths softned, by the Prospect of lying down upon 
the Bed of Fame. 

Avarice is, on the other side, of all Passions the most 
sordid, the most clogged and covered with dirt and with 15 
dross, so that it cannot raise its Wings beyond the smell of 
the Earth. 'Tis the Pay of common Soldiers, as Honour 
is of Commanders ; and yet among those themselves none 
ever went so far upon the hopes of prey or of spoils as 
those that have been spirited by Honour or Religion. 20 
'Tis no wonder, then, that Learning has been so little 
advanced since it grew to be mercenary, and the Progress 
of it has been fettered by the cares of the World, and 
disturbed by the Desires of being Rich or the fears of 
being Poor, from all which the ancient Philosophers, the 25 
Brachmans of India, the Chaldaan Magi, and Egyptian 
Priests were disintangled and free. 

But the last maim giving to Learning has been by the 
scorn of Pedantry, which the shallow, the superficial, and 
the sufficient among Scholars first drew upon themselves, 30 
and very justly, by pretending to more than they had, or to 
more esteem than what they had could deserve, by broach 
ing it in all places, at all times, upon all occasions, and 
by living so much among themselves, or in their Closets 
and Cells, as to make them unfit for all other business, and 35 



On Ancient and Modern Learning 41 

ridiculous in all other Conversations. As an Infection that 
rises in a Town first falls upon Children or weak Consti 
tutions or those that are subject to other Diseases, but, 
spreading further by degrees, seizes upon the most healthy, 

5 vigorous, and strong, and when the Contagion grows very 
general, all the Neighbours avoid coming into the Town, or 
are afraid of those that are well among them as much as of 
those that are sick : Just so it fared in the Commonwealth 
of Learning ; some l poor weak Constitutions were first 

10 infected with Pedantry, the Contagion spread in time upon 
some that were stronger ; Foreigners that heard there was 
a Plague in the Countrey grew afraid to come there, and 
avoided the commerce of the Sound as well as of the 
Diseased. This dislike or apprehension turned, like all 

15 fear, to hatred, and hatred to scorn. The rest of the 
Neighbours began first to rail at Pedants, then to ridicule 
them ; the Learned began to fear the same Fate, and that 
the Pidgeons should be taken for Daws, because they were 
all in a Flock : And because the poorest and meanest of the 

20 Company were proud, the best and the richest began to 
be ashamed. 

An Ingenious Spaniard at Brussels would needs have it 
that the History of Don Quixot had ruined the Spanish 
Monarchy : For before that time Love and Valour were all 

25 Romance among them ; every young Cavalier that entred 
the Scene Dedicated the Services of his Life to his Honour 
first, and then to his Mistris. They Lived and Dyed in 
this Romantick Vein ; and the old Duke of Alva, in his 
last Portugal expedition, had a young Mistress tp whom 

30 the Glory of that Atchievement was Devoted, by which he 
hoped to value himself, instead of those qualities he had 
lost with his youth. After Don Quixot appeared, and with 
that inimitable Wit and Humour turned all this Romantick 
Honour and Love into Ridicule, the Spaniards, he said, 

35 began to grow ashamed of both, and to laugh at Fighting 




42 Sir William Temple 

and Loving, or at least otherwise than to pursue their 
Fortune or satisfy their Lust; and the consequences 
of this, both upon their Bodies and their Minds, this 
Spaniard would needs have pass for a great Cause of 
the Ruin of Spain, or of its Greatness and Power. 5 

Whatever effect the Ridicule of Knight- Errantry might 
have had upon that Monarchy, I believe that of Pedantry 
has had a very ill one upon the Commonwealth of Learn 
ing ; and I wish the Vein of Ridiculing all that is serious 
and good, all Honour and Virtue as well as Learning and 10 
Piety, may have no worse effects on any other State : 'Tis 
the Itch of our Age and Clymat, and has over run both 
the Court and the Stage, enters a House of Lords and 
Commons as boldly as a Co^-House, Debates of Council 
as well as private Conversation ; and I have known in my 15 
Life more than one or two Ministers of State that would 
rather have said a Witty thing than done a Wise one, 
and made the Company Laugh rather than the Kingdom 
Rejoyce. But this is enough to excuse the imperfections 
of Learning in our Age, and to censure the Sufficiency 2 o 
of some of the Learned ; and this small Piece of Justice 
I have done the Ancients will not, I hope, be taken 
any more than 'tis meant, for any Injury to the Moderns. 

I shall conclude with a Saying of Alphonsus, Sirnamed 
the Wise, King of Aragon, 2 5 

That among so many things as are by Men possessed 
or pursued in the Course of their Lives, all the rest are 
Bawbles, Besides Old Wood to Burn, Old Wine to Drink, 
Old Friends to Converse with, and Old Books to Read. 



43 



II. OF POETRY 

Two common Shrines, to which most Men offer 
-** up the Application of their Thoughts and their Lives, 
are Profit and Pleasure ; and by their Devotions to either 
of these, they are vulgarly distinguished into Two Sects, 
5 and called either Busie or Idle Men. Whether these 
Terms differ in meaning or only in sound, I know very 
well may be disputed, and with appearance enough, since 
the Covetous Man takes perhaps as much Pleasure in his 
Gains as the Voluptuous does in his Luxury, and would 

10 not pursue his Business unless he were pleased with it, 
upon the last Account of what he most wishes and desires, 
nor would care for the encrease of his Fortunes unless he 
proposed thereby that of his Pleasures too, in one kind 
or other, so that Pleasure may be said to be his end, 

15 whether he will allow to find it in his pursuit or no. Much 
ado there has been, many Words spent, or (to speak with 
more respect to the antient Philosophers) many Disputes 
have been raised upon this Argument, I think to little 
purpose, and that all has been rather an Exercise of Wit 

20 than an Enquiry after Truth, and all Controversies that 
can never end had better perhaps never begin. The best 
is to take Words as they are most commonly spoken and 
meant, like Coyn as it most currantly passes, without 
raising scruples upon the weight or the allay, unless the 

25 cheat or the defect be gross and evident. Few Things in 
the World, or none, will bear too much refining ; a Thred 
too fine Spun will easily break, and the Point of a Needle 
too finely Filed. The usual acceptation takes Profit and 
Pleasure for two different Things, and not only calls the 

30 Followers or Votaries of them by several Names of Busie 
and of Idle Men, but distinguishes the Faculties of the 
mind that are Conversant about them, calling the Opera- 



44 Sir William Temple 

tions of the first, Wisdom, and of the other, Wit, which 
is a Saxon Word that is used to express what the 
Spaniards and Italians call Ingenio, and the French, 
Esprit, both from the Latin-, but I think Wit more 
peculiarly signifies that of Poetry, as may occur upon 5 
Remarks of the Runick Language. To the first of these 
are Attributed the Inventions or Productions of things 
generally esteemed the most necessary, useful, or profit 
able to Human Life, either in private Possessions or 
publick Institutions ; To the other, those Writings or 10 
Discourses which are the most Pleasing or Entertaining to 
all that read or hear them : Yet, according to the Opinion 
of those that link them together, As the Inventions of 
^t Sages and Law-givers themselves do please as well as 

-S profit those who approve and follow them, so those of 15 
: , J Poets Instruct and Profit as well as Please such as are 
^ Conversant in them ; and the happy mixture of both these 

makes the excellency in both those compositions, and 
has given occasion for esteeming or at least for calling 
Heroick Virtue and Poetry Divine. 20 

The Names given to Poets, both in Greek and Latin, 
express the same Opinion of them in those Nations: The 
Greek signifying Makers or Creators, such as raise admir 
able Frames and Fabricks out of nothing, which strike 
with wonder and with pleasure the Eyes and Imaginations 25 
of those who behold them ; The Latin makes the same 
Word common to Poets and to Prophets. Now, as 
Creation is the first Attribute and highest Operation of 
Divine Power, so is Prophecy the greatest Emanation of 
y^A Divine Spirit in the World. As the Names in those Two 30 

Learned Languages, so the Causes of Poetry, are by the 
^ Writers of them made to be Divine, and to proceed from 
a Ccelestial Fire or Divine Inspiration ; and by the vulgar 
Opinions, recited or related to in many Passages of those 
Authors, the Effects of Poetry were likewise thought Divine 35 



Of Poetry 45 

and Supernatural, and Power of Charms and Enchant 
ments were ascribed to it. 

Carmina vel Ccelo possunt deducere Lunam, 
Carminibus Circe Socios mutavit Ulyssis, 
5 Frigidus in prat(s cantando rumpitur Anguis. 

But I can easily admire Poetry, and yet without adoring 
it : I can allow it to arise from the greatest Excellency of 
natural Temper or the greatest Race of Native Genius, 
without exceeding the reach of what is Human, or giving 

10 it any Approaches of Divinity, which is, I doubt, debased 
or dishonoured by ascribing to it any thing that is in the 
compass of our Action or even Comprehension, unless it 
be raised by an immediate influence from it self. I cannot 
allow Poetry to be more Divine in its effects than in its 

15 causes, nor any Operation produced by it to be more than 
purely natural, or to deserve any other sort of wonder 
than those of Musick or of Natural Magick, however any 
of them have appeared to minds little Versed in the 
Speculations of Nature, of occult Qualities, and the Force 

20 of Numbers or of Sounds. Whoever talks of drawing 
down the Moon from Heaven by force of Verses or of 
Charms, either believes not himself, or too easily believes 
what others told him, or perhaps follows an Opinion begun 
by the Practise of some Poet upon the facility of some 

25 People, who, knowing the time when an Eclypse would 
happen, told them he would by his Charms call down the 
Moon at such an hour, and was by them thought to have 
performed it. 

When I read that Charming Description m^Virgtfs 

30 Eighth Ecclogue of all sorts of Charms and Fascinations 
by Verses, b}' Images, by Knots, by Numbers, by Fire, by 
Herbs, imployed upon occasion of a violent Passion from 
a jealous or disappointed Love, I have recourse to the 
strong Impressions of Fables and of Poetry, to the easy 

35 mistakes of Popular Opinions, to the Force of Imagi- 



46 Sir William Temple 

nation, to the Secret Virtues of several Herbs, and to the 
Powers of Sounds : And I am sorry the Natural History 
or Account of Fascination has not imployed the Pen of 
some Person of such excellent Wit and deep Thought and 
Learning as Casaubon, who Writ. that curious and useful 5 
Treatise of Enthusiasm, and by it discovered the hidden or 
mistaken Sources of that Delusion, so frequent in all 
Regions and Religions of the World, and which had so 
fatally spread over our Country in that Age in which this 
Treatise was so seasonably published. 'Tis much to be 10 
lamented, That he lived not to compleat that Work in the 
Second Part he promised, or that his Friends neglected 
the publishing it, if it were left in Papers, though loose 
and unfinished. I think a clear Account of Enthusiasm 
and Fascination from their natural Causes would very 15 
much deserve from Mankind in general as well as from 
the Common-wealth of Learning, might perhaps prevent 
many publick disorders, and save the Lifes of many 
innocent deluded or deluding People, who suffer so 
frequently upon Account of Witches and Wizards. I 20 
have seen many miserable Examples of this kind in my 
youth at home; and tho' the Humor or Fashion be a 
good deal worn out of the World within Thirty or Forty 
Years past, yet it still remains in several remote parts 01 
Germany, Sweden, and some other Countries. 25 

But to return to the Charms of Poetry, if the forsaken 
Lover in that Ecclogue of Virgil had expected only from 
the Force of her Verses or her Charms, what is the 
Burthen of the Song, to bring Daphnis home from the 
Town where he was gone and engaged in a new Amour ; 30 
if she had pretended only to revive an old fainting Flame, 
or to damp a new one that was kindling in his Breast, she 
might, for ought I know, have compassed such Ends by 
the Power of such Charms, and without other than very 
Natural Enchantments. For there is no Question but 35 



Of Poetry 47 

true Poetry may have the Force to raise Passions and to 
allay them, to change and to extinguish them, to temper 
Joy and Grief, to raise Love and Fear, nay, to turn 
Fear into Boldness, and Love into Indifference and into 

5 Hatred it self; and I easily believe, That the disheart- 
ned Spartans were new animated, and recovered their lost 
Courage, by the Songs of Tyrtceus, that the Cruelty and 
Revenge of Phalaris were changed by the Odes of 
Stesichorus into the greatest Kindness and Esteem, and 

10 that many men were as passionately Enamoured by the 
Charms of Sappho's Wit and Poetry as by those of Beauty 
in Flora or Thais ; for 'tis not only Beauty gives Love, but 
Love gives Beauty to the Object that raises it ; and if the 
possession be strong enough, let it come from what it will, 

1 5 there is always Beauty enough in the Person that gives it. 
Nor is it any great Wonder that such Force should be 
found in Poetry, since in it are assembled all the Powers 
of Eloquence, of Musick, and of Picture, which are all allowed 
to make so strong Impressions upon Humane Minds. How 

20 far Men have been affected with all or any of these needs 
little Proof or Testimony. The Examples have been known 
enough in Greece and Italy, where some have fallen down 
right in Love with the Ravishing Beauties of a lovely 
Object drawn by the Skill of an admirable Painter ; nay, 

25 Painters themselves have fallen in Love with some of their 
own Productions, and doated on them as on a Mistress or 
a fond Child, which distinguishes among the Italians the 
several Pieces that are done by the same Hand into 
several Degrees of those made Con Studio, Con Djligenza, 

30 or Con Amore, whereof the last are ever the most excelling. 
But there needs no more Instances of this Kind than the 
Stories related and believed by the best Authors as known 
and undisputed ; Of the two young Grcecians, one whereof 
ventured his Life to be lock'd up all Night in the Temple, 

35 and satisfie his Passion with the Embraces and Enjoyment 



48 Sir William Temple 

of a Statue of Venus, that was there set up and designed 
for another sort of Adoration ; The other pined away and 
dyed for being hindred his perpetually gazing, admiring, 
and embracing a Statue at Athens. 

The Powers of Musick are either felt and known by all 5 
Men, and are allowed to work strangely upon the Mind 
and the Body, the Passions and the Blood, to raise Joy 
and Grief, to give Pleasure and Pain, to cure Diseases and 
the Mortal Sting of the Tarantula, to give Motions to the 
Feet as well as the Heart, to Compose disturbed Thoughts, 10 
to assist and heighten Devotion it self. We need no 
Recourse to the Fables of Orpheus or Amphion, or the 
Force of their Musick upon Fishes and Beasts; 'tis 
enough that we find the Charming of Serpents, and the 
Cure or Allay of an evil Spirit or Possession, attributed to 15 
it in Sacred Writ. 

For the Force of Eloquence that so often raised and 
appeased the Violence of Popular Commotions and caused 
such Convulsions in the Athenian State, no Man need 
more to make him Acknowledge it than to consider Ccesar, 20 
one of the greatest and wisest of mortal Men, come upon 
the Tribunal full of Hatred and Revenge, and with a 
determined Resolution to Condemn Labienus, yet upon the 
Force of Cicero's Eloquence, in an Oration for his Defence, 
begin to change Countenance, turn pale, shake to that 25 
degree that the Papers he held fell out of his hand, as it 
he had been frighted with Words that never was so with 
Blows, and at last change all his Anger into Clemency, 
and acquit the brave Criminal instead of condemning 
him. 30 

Now if the Strength of these three mighty Powers be 
united in Poetry, we need not Wonder that such Virtues 
and such Honours have been attributed to it, that it has 
been thought to be inspired, or has been called Divine; 
and yet I think it will not be disputed that the Force of 35 



Of Poetry 49 

Wit and of Reasoning, the Height of Conceptions and 
Expressions, may be found in Poetry as well as in Oratory, 
the Life and Spirit of Representation or Picture as much 
as in Painting, and the Force of Sounds as well as in 

5 Musick; and how far these three natural Powers together 
may extend, and to what Effect, even such as may be 
mistaken for Supernatural or Magical, I leave it to such 
Men to consider whose Thoughts turn to such Specu 
lations as these, or who by their native Temper and 

10 Genius are in some degree disposed to receive the 
Impressions of them. For my part, I do not wonder that 
the famous Doctor Harvey, when he was reading Virgil, 
should sometimes throw him down upon the Table, and 
say he had a Devil, nor that the learned Meric Casaubon 

15 should find such Charming Pleasures and Emotions as he 
describes, upon the reading some Parts of Lucretius ; that 
so many should cry, and with down-right Tears, at some 
Tragedies of Shake-spear, and so many more should feel 
such Turns or Curdling of their Blood upon the reading 

20 or hearing some excellent Pieces of Poetry, nor that 
Octavia fell into a Swound at the recital made by Virgil ot 
those Verses in the Sixth of his jEneides. 

This is enough to assert the Powers of Poetry, and 
discover the Ground of those Opinions of old which 

35 derived it from Divine Inspiration, and gave it so great a 
share in the supposed Effects of Sorcery or Magick. But 
as the Old Romances seem to lessen the Honour of true 
Prowess and Valour in their Knights by giving such a 
part in all their Chief Adventures to Enchantment^so the 

30 true excellency and just esteem of Poetry seems rather 
debased than exalted by the Stories or Belief of the 
Charms performed by it, which among the Northern 
Nations grew so strong and so general that about Five or 
Six Hundred Years ago all the Runick Poetry came to be 

35 decryed, and those ancient Characters in which they were 



50 Sir William Temple 

Written to be abolished by the Zeal of Bishops and even 
by Orders and Decrees of State, which has given a great 
Maim, or rather an irrecoverable Loss, to the Story of 
those Northern Kingdoms, the Seat of our Ancestors in all 
the Western parts of Europe. 5 

The more true and natural Source of Poetry may be 
discovered by observing to what God this Inspiration was 
ascribed by the Antients, which was Apollo, or the Sun, 
esteemed among them the God of Learning in general, 
but more particularly of Musick and of Poetry. The 10 
Mystery of this Fable means, I suppose, that a certain 
Noble and Vital Heat of Temper, but especially of the 
Brain, is the true Spring of these Two Arts or Sciences. 
This was that Ccelestial Fire which gave such a pleasing 
Motion and Agitation to the minds of those Men that have 15 
been so much admired in the World, that raises such 
infinite images of things so agreeable and delightful to 
Mankind. By the influence of this Sun are produced 
those Golden and Inexhausted Mines of Invention, which 
has furnished the World with Treasures so highly 20 
esteemed and so universally known and used in all the 
Regions that have yet been discovered. From this arises 
that Elevation of Genius which can never be produced by 
any Art or study, by Pains or by Industry, which cannot 
be taught by Precepts or Examples, and therefore is 2 5 
agreed by all to be the pure and free Gift of Heaven or 
of Nature, and to be a Fire kindled out of some hidden 
spark of the very first Conception. 

But tho j Invention be the Mother of Poetry, yet this 
Child is like all others born naked, and must be Nourished 30 
with Care, Cloathed with Exactness and Elegance, Educated 
with Industry, Instructed with Art, Improved by Applica 
tion, Corrected with Severity, and Accomplished with 
Labour and with Time, before it Arrives at any great 
Perfection or Growth. 'Tis certain that no Composition 35 



Of Poetry 51 

requires so many several Ingredients, or of more different 
sorts than this, nor that to excel in any qualities there 
are necessary so many Gifts of Nature and so many 
improvements of Learning and of Art. For there must 

5 be an universal Genius, of great Compass as well as great 
Elevation. There must be a spritely Imagination or 
Fancy, fertile in a thousand Productions, ranging over 
infinite Ground, piercing into every Corner, and by the 
Light of that true Poetical Fire discovering a thousand 

10 little Bodies or Images in the World, and Similitudes 
among them, unseen to common Eyes, and which could 
not be discovered without the Rays of that Sun. 

Besides the heat of Invention and liveliness of Wit, 
there must be the coldness of good Sense and soundness 

15 of Judgment, to distinguish between things and con 
ceptions which at first sight or upon short glances seem 
alike, to choose among infinite productions of Wit and 
Fancy which are worth preserving and cultivating, and 
which are better stifled in the Birth, or thrown away when 

20 they are born, as not worth bringing up. Without the 

' Forces of Wit all Poetry is flat and languishing ; without 

the succors of Judgment 'tis wild and extravagant. The 

true wonder of Poesy is, That such contraries must meet 

to compose it : a Genius both Penetrating and Solid ; in 

25 Expression both Delicacy and Force ; and the Frame or 
Fabrick of a true Poem must have something both Sublime 
and Just, Amazing and Agreeable. There must be a great 
Agitation of Mind to Invent, a great Calm to Judge and 
correct; there must be upon the same Tree, and tit the 

30 same Time, both Flower and Fruit. To work up this 
Metal into exquisite Figure, there must be imploy'd the 
Fire, the Hammer, the Chizel, and the File. There must 
be a General Knowledge both of Nature and of Arts ; and 
to go the lowest that can be, there are required Genius, 

35 Judgment, and Application ; for without this last all the 



52 Sir William Temple 

rest will not serve turn, and none ever was a great Poet 
that applyed himself much to any thing else. 

When I speak of Poetry, I mean not an Ode or an 
Elegy, a Song or a Satyr, nor by a Poet the Composer of 
any of these, but of a just Poem ; And after all I have 5 
said, 'tis no wonder there should be so few that appeared 
in any Parts or any Ages of the World, or that such as 
have should be so much admired, and have almost Divinity 
ascribed to them and to their Works. 

Whatever has been among those who are mentioned 10 
with so much Praise or Admiration by the Antients, but 
are lost to us, and unknown any further than their Names, 
I think no Man has been so bold among those that remain 
to question the Title of Homer and Virgil, not only to the 
first Rank, but to the supream Dominion in this State, and 15 
from whom, as the great Law-givers as well as Princes, all 
the Laws and Orders of it are or may be derived. Homer 
was without Dispute the most Universal Genius that has 
been known in the World, and Virgil the most accomplish't. 
To the first must be allowed the most fertile Invention, the 20 
richest Vein, the most general Knowledge, and the most 
lively Expression : To the last, The noblest Idea's, the 
justest Institution, the wisest Conduct, and the choycest 
Elocution. To speak in the Painters Terms, we find in 
the Works of Homer the most Spirit, Force, and Life ; in 25 
those of Virgil, the best Design, the truest Proportions, 
and the greatest Grace : The Colouring in both seems 
equal, and, indeed, in both is admirable. Homer had more 
Fire and Rapture, Virgil more Light and Swiftness ; or at 
least the Poetical Fire was more raging in one, but clearer 3 
in the other, which makes the first more amazing and the 
latter more agreeable. The Oare was richer in one, but 
in t'other more refined, and better allay' d to make up 
excellent Work. Upon the whole, I think it must be 
confessed that Homer was of the two, and perhaps of all 35 






Of Poetry 53 

others, the vastest, the sublimest, and the most wonderful 
Genius', and that he has been generally so esteemed, there 
cannot be a greater Testimony given than what has been by 
some observed, that not only the Greatest Masters have 

5 found in his Works the best and truest Principles of all 
their Sciences or Arts, but that the noblest Nations have 
derived from them the Original of their several Races, 
though it be hardly yet agreed, Whether his Story be True 
or Fiction. In short, these two immortal Poets must be 

10 allowed to have so much excelled in their kinds as to have 
exceeded all Comparison, to have even extinguished Emu 
lation, and in a Manner confined true Poetry not only to 
their two Languages, but to their very Persons. And I 
am apt to believe so much of the true Genius of Poetry in 

i 5 general, and of its Elevation in these two Particulars, that 
I know not whether of all the Numbers of Mankind that 
live within the Compass of a Thousand Years, for one 
Man that is born capable of making such a Poet as Homer 
or Virgil, there may not be a Thousand born Capable of 

20 making as great Generals of Armies or Ministers of State 
as any the most Renowned in Story. 

I do not here intend to make a further Critick upon 
Poetry, which were too great a Labour, nor to give Rules 
for it, which were as great a Presumption. Besides, there 

25 has been so much Paper blotted upon these Subjects in this 
Curious and Censuring Age, that 'tis all grown tedious or 
Repetition. The Modern French Wits (or Pretenders) have 
been very severe in their Censures and exact in their Rules, 
I think to very little Purpose ; For I know not why they 

3 o might not have contented themselves with those given by 
Aristotle and Horace, and have Translated them rather than 
Commented upon them, for all they have done has been no\ 
more, so as they seem, by their Writings of this kind, rather 1 
to have valued themselves than improved any body else. 7 

3 5 The Truth is, there is something in the Genius of Poetry too 

E 2 



54 Sir William Temple 

Libertine to be confined to so many Rules; and whoever 
goes about to subject it to such Constraints loses both its 
Spirit and Grace, which are ever Native, and never learnt, 
even of the best Masters. 'Tis as if, to make excellent 
Honey, you should cut off the Wings of your Bees, confine 5 
them to their Hive or their Stands, and lay Flowers before 
them, such as you think the sweetest and like to yield the 
finest Extraction ; you had as good pull out their Stings, 
and make arrant Drones of them. They must range 
through Fields as well as Gardens, choose such Flowers as 10 
they please, and by Proprieties and Scents they only know 
and distinguish. They must work up their Cells with 
Admirable Art, extract their Honey with infinite Labour, 
and sever it from the Wax with such Distinction and 
Choyce as belongs to none but themselves to perform or 15 
to judge. 

It would be too much Mortification to these great Arbi 
trary Rulers among the French Writers or our own to 
Observe the worthy Productions that have been formed 
by their Rules, the Honour they have received in the 20 
World, or the Pleasure they have given Mankind. But 
to comfort them, I do not know there was any great Poet 
in Greece after the Rules of that Art layd down by Aristotle, 
nor in Rome after those by Horace, which yet none of our 
Moderns pretend to have out-done. Perhaps Theocritus 25 
and Lucan may be alledg'd against this Assertion ; but the 
first offered no further than at Idils or Eclogues ; and the 
jast, though he must be avowed for a true and a happy Genius, 
and to have made some very high Flights, yet he is so 
unequal to himself, and his Muse is so young, that his Faults 30 
are too noted to allow his Pretences. Fceliciter audet is the 
true Character of Lucan, as of Ovid, Lusit amabiliter. 
After all, the utmost that can be atchieved or, I think, 
pretended by any Rules in this Art is but to hinder some 
men from being very ill Poets, but not to make any man 35 



Of Poetry 55 

a very good one. To judge who is so, we need go no 
further for Instruction than three Lines of Horace : 

Ilk meum qui Pectus inaniter angit, 
Irritat, mulcet, falsis terroribus implet, 
5 Ut Magus, 6 modo me Thebis, modo ponit Athenis. 

He is a Poet, 

Who vainly anguishes my Breast, 
Provokes, allays, and with false Terror fills, 
Like a Magician, and now sets me down 
I0 In Thebes, and now in Athens. 

Whoever does not affect and move the same present 
Passions in you that he represents in others, and at other 
times raise Images about you, as a Conjurer is said to do 
Spirits, Transport you to the Places and to the Persons he 

15 describes, cannot be judged to be a Poet, though his 
Measures are never so just, his Feet never so smooth, or 
his Sounds never so sweet. 

But instead of Critick or Rules concerning Poetry, 
I shall rather turn my Thoughts to the History of it, and 

20 observe the Antiquity, the Uses, the Changes, the Decays, 
that have attended this great Empire of Wit. 

It is, I think, generally agreed to have been the first 
sort of Writing that has been used in the World, and in 
several Nations to have preceded the very Invention or 

25 Usage of Letters. This last is certain in America, where 
the first Spaniards met with many strains of Poetry, and 
left several of them Translated into their Language, which 
seem to have flowed from a true Poetick Vein before any 
Letters were known in those Regions. The same is 

30 probable of the Scythians, the Grecians, and the Germans. 
Aristotle says the Agathyrsi had their Laws all in Verse ; 
and Tacitus, that the Germans had no Annals nor Records 
but what were so ; and for the Grecian Oracles delivered in 
them, we have no certain Account when they began, but 

35 rather reason to believe it was before the Introduction of 



56 Sir William Temple 

Letters from Phoenicia among them. Pliny tells it, as a 
thing known, that Pherecides was the first who Writ Prose in 
the Greek Tongue, and that he lived about the time of Cyrus, 
whereas Homer and Hesiod lived some Hundreds of Years 
before that Age, and Orpheus, Linus, Musceus, some Hun- 5 
dreds before them : And of the Sybils, several were before 
any of those, and in times as well as places whereof we 
have no clear Records now remaining. What Solon and 
Pythagoras Writ is said to have been in Verse, who were 
something older than Cyrus; and before them were Archi- 10 
locus, Simonides, Tyrtceus, Sappho, Stesichorus, and several 
other Poets famous in their times. The same thing is 
reported of Chaldcea, Syria, and China ; among the ancient 
Western Goths, our Ancestors, the Runick Poetry seems 
to have been as old as their Letters; and their Laws, 15 
their Precepts of Wisdom as well as their Records, their 
Religious Rites as well as their Charms and Incantations, 
to have been all in Verse. 

Among the Hebrews, and even in Sacred Writ, the most 
antient is by some Learned Men esteemed to be the Book 20 
of Job, and that it was Written before the time of Moses, 
and that it was a Translation into Hebrew, out of the old 
Chaldcean or Arabian Language. It may probably be 
conjectured that he was not a Jew, from the place of 
his abode, which appears to have been Seated between 25 
the Chaldceans of one Side and the Sabceans (who were 
of Arabia) on the other; and by many Passages of that 
admirable and truly inspired Poem, the Author seems 
to have lived in some Parts near the Mouth of Euphrates, 
or the Persian Gulf, where he contemplated the Wonders 30 
of the Deep as well as the other Works of Nature common 
to those Regions. Nor is it easy to find any Traces of the 
Mosaical Rites or Institutions, either in the Divine Worship 
or the Morals related to in those Writings : For not only 
Sacrifices and Praises were much more antient in Religious 35 



Of Poetry 57 

Service than the Age of Moses ; But the Opinion of one 
Deity, and Adored without any Idol or Representation, 
was Professed and Received among the antient Persians 
and Hetruscans and Chalda'ans. So that if Job was an 
5 Hebrew, 'tis probable he may have been of the Race of 
Heber, who lived in Chaldcea, or of Abraham , who is 
supposed to have left that Country for the Profession or 
Worship of one God, rather than from the Branch of Isaac 
and Israel, who lived in the Land of Canaan. Now I 

10 think it is out of Controversy that the Book of Job was 
Written Originally in Verse, and was a Poem upon the 
Subject of the Justice and Power of God, and in Vindi 
cation of his Providence against the common Arguments of 
Atheistical Men, who took occasion to dispute it from the 

15 usual Events of Human things, by which so many ill and 
impious Men seem Happy and Prosperous in the course of 
their Lives, and so many Pious and Just Men seem Miserable 
or Afflicted. TheSpam'sh Translation of the Jews in Ferrara, 
which pretends to render the Hebrew, as near as could be, 

20 word for word, and for which all Translators of the 
Bible since have had great Regard, gives us the Two first 
Chapters and the Last from the seventh Verse in Prose, as 
an Historical Introduction and Conclusion of the Work, 
and all the rest in Verse, except the Transitions from one 

25 Part or Person of this Sacred Dialogue to another. 

But if we take the Books of Moses to be the most antient 
in the Hebrew Tongue, yet the Song of Moses may probably 
have been Written before the rest ; as that of Deborah, 
before the Book of Judges, being Praises sung to Gqd upon 

30 the Victories or Successes of the Israelites, related in 
both. And I never read the last without observing in it as 
True and Noble Strains of Poetry and Picture as in any 
other Language whatsoever, in spight of all Disadvantages 
from Translations into so different Tongues and common 

35 Prose. If an Opinion of some Learned Men, both Modern 



58 Sir William Temple 

and Antient, could be allowed, that Esdras was the Writer 
or Compiler of the first Historical Parts of the Old Testa 
ment, though from the same Divine Inspiration as that of 
Moses and the other Prophets, then the Psalms of David 
would be the first Writings we find in Hebrew ; and next 5 
to them, the Song of Solomon, which was written when 
he was young, and Ecclesiastes when he was old. So that 
from all sides, both Sacred and Prophane, It appears that 
Poetry was the first sort of Writing known and used in 
the several Nations of the World. 10 

It may seem strange, I confess, upon the first thought, 
that a sort of Style so regular and so difficult should have 
grown in use before the other so easy and so loose : But 
if we consider what the first end of Writing was, it will 
appear probable from Reason as well as Experience; For 15 
the true and General End was but the Help of Memory in 
preserving that of Words and of Actions, which would 
otherwise have been lost and soon vanish away with the 
Transitory Passage of Human Breath and Life. Before 
the Discourses and Disputes of Philosophers began to 20 
busie or amuse the Grcecian Wits, there was nothing Written 
in Prose, but either Laws, some short Sayings of Wise 
men, or some Riddles, Parables, or Fables, wherein were 
couched by the Antients many Strains of Natural or 
Moral Wisdom and Knowledge, and besides these some 25 
short Memorials of Persons, Actions, and of Times. Now 
'tis obvious enough to conceive how much easier all such 
Writings should be Learnt and Remembred in Verse than 
in Prose, not only by the Pleasure of Measures and of 
Sounds, which gives a great Impression to Memory, but by 30 
the order of Feet, which makes a great Facility of Tracing 
one Word after another, by knowing what sort of Foot or 
Quantity must necessarily have preceded or followed the 
Words we retain and desire to make up. 

This made Poetry so necessary before Letters were 35 



Of Poetry 59 

invented, and so convenient afterwards ; and shews that 
the great Honor and general Request wherein it has 
always been has not proceeded only from the Pleasure 
and Delight, but likewise from the Usefulness and Profit of 
5 Poetical Writings. 

This leads me naturally to the Subjects of Poetry, which 
have been generally Praise, Instruction, Story, Love, 
Grief, and Reproach. Praise was the Subject of all the 
Songs and Psalms mentioned in Holy Writ, of the Hymns 

10 of Orpheus, of Homer, and many others ; Of the Carmina 
Secularia in Rome, Composed all and Designed for the 
Honor of their Gods ; Of Pindar, Stesichorus, and 
Tyrtceus, in the Praises of Virtue or Virtuous Men. The 
Subject of Job is Instruction concerning the Attributes of 

15 God and the Works of Nature. Those of Simonides, 
Phocillides, Theognis, and several other of the smaller 
Greek Poets, with what passes for Pythagoras, are In 
structions in Morality; The first Book of Hesiod and 
Virgils Georgicks, in Agriculture, and Lucretius in the 

20 deepest natural Philosophy. Story is the proper Subject of 
Heroick Poems, as Homer and Virgil in their inimitable 
Iliads and ^Eneids ; And Fable, which is a sort of Story, 
in the Metamorphosis of Ovid. The Lyrick Poetry has 
been chiefly Conversant about Love, tho* turned often 

2 5 upon Praise too ; and the Vein of Pastorals and Eclogues 
has run the same course, as may be observed in Theocrytus, 
Virgil, and Horace, who was, I think, the first and last of 
true Lyrick Poets among the Latins. Grief has been 
always the Subject of Elegy, and Reproach that of Satyr. 

30 The Dramatick Poesy has been Composed of all these, but 
the chief end seems to have been Instruction, and under 
the disguise of Fables or the Pleasure of Story to shew 
the Beauties and the Rewards of Virtue, the Deformities 
and Misfortunes or Punishment of Vice; By Examples of 

35 both, to Encourage one, and Deter Men from the other; to 



60 Sir William Temple 

Reform ill Customs, Correct ill Manners, and Moderate all 
violent Passions. These are the general Subjects of both 
Parts, tho' Comedy give us but the Images of common Life, 
and Tragedy those of the greater and more extraordinary 
Passions and Actions among Men. To go further upon 5 
this Subject would be to tread so beaten Paths, that to 
Travel in them only raises Dust, and is neither of Pleasure 
nor of Use. 

For the Changes that have happened in Poetry, I shall 
observe one Ancient, and the others that are Modern will 10 
be too Remarkable, in the Declines or Decays of this great 
Empire of Wit. The first Change of Poetry was made by 
Translating it into Prose, or Cloathing it in those loose 
Robes or common Veils that disguised or covered the 
true Beauty of its Features and Exactness of its Shape. 15 
This was done first by jEsop in Greek, but the Vein was 
much more antient in the Eastern Regions, and much in 
Vogue, as we may observe in the many Parables used in 
the old Testament as well as in the New. And there is 
a Book of Fables, of the Sort of </sop's, Translated out of 20 
Persian, and pretended to have been so into that Language 
out of the antient Indian But though it seems Genuine 
of the Eastern Countries, yet I do not take it to be so old 
nor to have so much Spirit as the Greek. The next Suc 
cession of Poetry in Prose seems to have been in the 25 
Miletian Tales, which were a sort of little Pastoral Ro 
mances; and though much in request in old Greece and 
Rome, yet we have no Examples that I know of them, 
unless it be the Longi Pastoralia, which gives a Tast of the 
great Delicacy and Pleasure that was found so generally 30 
in those sort of Tales. The last Kind of Poetry in Prose 
is that which in latter Ages has over-run the World under 
the Name of Romances, which tho' it seems Modern and 
a Production of the Gothick Genius, yet the Writing is 
antient. The Remainders of Petronius Arbiter seem to 35 



Of Poetry 61 

be of this Kind, and that which Lucian calls his True 
History. But the most antient that passes by the Name 
is Heliodorus, Famous for the Author's chusing to lose 
his Bishoprick rather than disown that Child of his Wit. 

5 The true Spirit or Vein of antient Poetry in this Kind 
seems to shine most in Sir Philip Sidney, whom I esteem 
both the greatest Poet and the Noblest Genius of any that 
have left Writings behind them and published in ours or 
any other modern Language, a Person born capable not 

10 only of forming the greatest Ideas, but of leaving the 
noblest Examples, if the length of his Life had been 
equal to the excellence of his Wit and his Virtues. 

With him I leave the Discourse of antient Poetry, and 
to discover the Decays of this Empire must turn to that 

15 of the modern, which was introduced after the Decays 
or rather Extinction of the old, as if, true Poetry being 
dead, an Apparition of it walked about. This mighty 
Change arrived by no smaller Occasions nor more ignoble 
Revolutions than those which destroyed the antient Em- 

20 pire and Government of Rome, and Erected so many New 
ones upon their Ruins, by the Invasions and Conquests 
or the general Inundations of the Goths, Vandals, and 
other Barbarous or Northern Nations, upon those Parts 
of Europe that had been subject to the Romans. After 

25 the Conquests made by Caesar upon Gaul and the nearer 
Parts of Germany, which were continued and enlarged in 
the times of Augustus and Tiberius by their Lieutenants 
or Generals, great Numbers of Germans and Gauls resorted 
to the Roman Armies, and to the City it self, and habituated 

30 themselves there, as many Spaniards, Syrians, Grecians 
had done before upon the Conquest of those Countries. 
This mixture soon Corrupted the Purity of the Latin 
Tongue, so that in Lucan, but more in Seneca, we find 
a great and harsh Allay entered into the Style of the 

35 Augustan Age. After Trajan and Adrian had subdued 



62 Sir William Temple 

many German and Scythian Nations on both sides of the 
Danube, the Commerce of those barbarous People grew 
very frequent with the Romans] and I am apt to think 
that the little Verses ascribed to Adrian were in Imitation 
of the Runick Poetry. The Scythicas Pati Pruinas of 5 
Florus shews their Race or Clymate, and the first Rhyme 
that ever I read in Latin, with little Allusions of Letters 
or Syllables, is in that of Adrian at his Death : 

O Animula vagula, blandula, 

Quce nunc abibis in loca ? 10 

Pallidula, lurida, timidula, 

Nee, ut soles, dabis joca. 

Tis probable, the old Spirit of Poetry being lost or 
frighted away by those long and bloody Wars with such 
barbarous Enemies, this New Ghost began to appear in T 5 
its room even about that Age, or else that Adrian, who 
affected that piece of Learning as well as others, and was 
not able to reach the old Vein, turned to a new one, which 
his Expeditions into those Countries made more allowable 
in an Emperor, and his Example recommended to others. 20 
In the time of Boetius, who lived under Theodorick in 
Rome, we find the Latin Poetry smell rank of this Gothick 
Imitation, and the old vein quite seared up. 

After that Age Learning grew every day more and 
more obscured by that Cloud of Ignorance which, coming 25 
from the North and increasing with the Numbers and 
Successes of those barbarous People, at length over 
shadowed all Europe for so long together. The Roman 
Tongue began it self to fail or be disused, and by its Cor 
ruption made way for the Generation of three New 30 
Languages, in Spain, Italy, and France. The Courts of 
the Princes and Nobles, who were of the Conquering 
Nations, for several Ages used their Gothick, or Franc, 
or Saxon Tongues, which were mingled with those of 
Germany, where some of the Goths had sojourned long, 35 



Of Poetry 63 

before they proceeded to their Conquests of the more 
Southern or Western Parts. Whereever the Roman 
Colonies had long remained and their Language had been 
generally spoken, the common People used that still, but 

5 vitiated with the base allay of their Provincial Speech. 
This in Charlemam's time was called in France, Rustica 
Romana, and in Spain, during the Gothick Reigns there, 
Romance; but in England, from whence all the Roman 
Souldiers, and great Numbers of the Britains most accus- 

10 tomed to their Commerce and Language, had been drained 
for the Defence of Gaul against the barbarous Nations 
that invaded it about the time of Valentinian, that Tongue 
(being wholly extinguish't, as well as their own) made way 
for the intire use of the Saxon Language. With these 

15 Changes the antient Poetry was wholly lost in all these 
Countries, and a new sort grew up by degrees, which 
was called by a new Name of Rhimes, with an easy Change 
of the Gothick Word Runes, and not from the Greek 
Rythmes, as is vulgarly supposed. 

20 Runes was properly the Name of the Antient Gothick 
Letters or Characters, which were Invented first or intro 
duced by Odin, in the Colony or Kingdom of the Getes 
or Goths, which he Planted in the North-West Parts and 
round the Baltick Sea, as has been before related. But 

25 because all the Writings they had among them for many 
Ages were in Verse, it came to be the common Name of 
all sorts of Poetry among the Goths, and the Writers 
or Composers of them were called Runers, or Rymers. 
They had likewise another Name for them, or for some 

30 sorts of them, which was Vuses, or Wises ; and because 
the Sages of that Nation expressed the best of their 
Thoughts, and what Learning and Prudence they had, 
in these kind of Writings, they that succeeded best and 
with most Applause were termed Wise-men, the good 

35 Sense or Learning or useful Knowledge contained in 



64 Sir William Temple 

them was called Wisdom, and the pleasant or facetious 
Vein among them was called Wit, which was applied to all 
Spirit or Race of Poetry, where it was found in any Men, 
and was generally pleasing to those that heard or read 
them. 5 

Of these Runes there were in use among the Goths above 
a hundred several sorts, some Composed in longer, some 
in shorter Lines, some equal and others unequal, with 
many different Cadencies, Quantities, or Feet, which in 
the pronouncing make many different sorts of Original 10 
or Natural Tunes. Some were Framed with Allusions of 
Words or Consonance of Syllables or of Letters, either in 
the same Line, or in the Dystick, or by alternate Suc 
cession and Resemblance, which made a sort of Gingle 
that pleased the ruder Ears of that People. And because 15 
their Language was composed most of Monosyllables and 
of so great Numbers, many must end in the same Sound; 
another Sort of Runes were made with the Care and Study 
of ending two Lines, or each other of four Lines, with 
Words of the same sound, which being the easiest, re- 20 
quiring less Art and needing less Spirit, because a certain 
Chime in the Sounds supplied that want and pleased 
common Ears, this in time grew the most general among 
all the Gothick Colonies in Europe, and made Rhymes or 
Runes pass for the modern Poetry in these Parts of the 25 
World. 

This was not used only in their modern Languages, 
but, during those ignorant Ages, even in that barbarous 
Latin which remained, and was preserved among the 
Monks and Priests, to distinguish them by some shew of 3 o 
Learning from the Laity, who might well admire it, in 
what Degree soever, and Reverence the Professors, when 
they themselves could neither write nor read, even in 
their own Language; I mean not only the vulgar Lay 
men, but even the Generality of Nobles, Barons, and 35 



Of Poetry 65 

Princes among them; and this lasted till the antient 
Learning and Languages began to be restored in Europe 
about Two Hundred Years ago. 

The common vein of the Gothick Runes was what is 

5 Termed Dithyrambick, and was of a raving or rambling 
>rt of Wit or Invention, loose and flowing, with little 
irt or Confinement to any certain Measures or Rules; 
yet some of it wanted not the true Spirit of Poetry in some 
Degree, or that natural Inspiration which has been said 

10 to arise from some Spark of Poetical Fire wherewith par 
ticular Men are born. And such as it was, it served the 
turn, not only to please, but even to charm the Ignorant 
and Barbarous Vulgar, where it was in use. This made 
the Runers among the Goths as much in request and 

15 admired as any of the antient and most celebrated Poets 
were among the Learned Nations; for among the blind, 
he that has one Eye is a Prince. They were as well as 
the others thought inspired, and the Charms of their Runick 
Conceptions were generally esteemed Divine, or Magical 

20 at least. 

The subjects of them were various, but commonly the 
same with those already observed in the true antient 
Poetry. Yet this Vein was chiefly imployed upon the 
Records of Bold and Martial Actions, and the Praises 

25 of Valiant Men that had Fought Successfully or Dyed 
Bravely ; and these Songs or Ballads were usually sung 
at Feasts, or in Circles of Young or Idle Persons, and 
served to inflame the Humour of War, of Slaughter, and 
of Spoils among them. More refined Honour 6Y Love 

30 had little part in the Writings, because it had little in the 
Lives or Actions of those fierce People and bloody Times. 
Honour among them consisted in Victory, and Love in 
Rapes and in Lust. 

But as the true Flame of Poetry was rare among them, 

35 and the rest was but Wild Fire that Sparkled or rather 



66 Sir William Temple 

Crackled a while, and soon went out with little Pleasure or 
Gazing of the Beholders, Those Runers who could not 
raise Admiration by the Spirit of their Poetry endeavoured 
to do it by another, which was that of Enchantments : 
iThis came in to supply the Defect of that sublime and 5 
I Marvellous, which has been found both in Poetry and 
|Prose among the Learned Antients. The Gothick Runers, 
to Gain and Establish the Credit and Admiration of their 
Rhymes, turned the use of them very much to Incantations 
and Charms, pretending by them to raise Storms, to Calm 10 
the Seas, to cause Terror in their Enemies, to Transport 
themselves in the Air, to Conjure Spirits, to Cure Diseases, 
and Stanch Bleeding Wounds, to make Women kind or 
easy, and Men hard or invulnerable, as one of their most 
antient Runers affirms of himself and his own Atchiev- 15 
ments, by Force of these Magical Arms. The Men or 
Women who were thought to perform such Wonders or 
Enchantments were, from Vuses, or Wises, the Name of 
those Verses wherein their Charms were conceived, called 
Wizards or Witches. 20 

Out of this Quarry seem to have been raised all those 
Trophees of Enchantment that appear in the whole Fabrick 
of the old Spanish Romances, which were the Productions 
of the Gothick Wit among them during their Reign ; and 
after the Conquests of Spain by the Saracens, they were 25 
applied to the long Wars between them and the Christians. 
From the same perhaps may be derived all the visionary 
Tribe of Faries, Elves, and Goblins, of Sprites and of 
Bui-beggars, that serve not only to fright Children into 
whatever their Nurses please, but sometimes, by lasting 30 
Impressions, to disquiet the sleeps and the very Lives 
of Men and Women, till they grow to Years of Discretion; 
and that, God knows, is a Period of time which some 
People Arrive to but very late, and perhaps others never. 
At least, this belief prevailed so far among the Goths and 35 



Of Poetry 67 

their Races, that all sorts of Charms were not only 
Attributed to their Runes or Verses, but to their very 
Characters ; so that, about the Eleventh Century, they 
were forbidden and abolished in Sweden, as they had 
5 been before in Spain, by Civil and Ecclesiastical Com 
mands or Constitutions ; and what has been since recovered 
of that Learning or Language has been fetcht as far as 
Ysland it self. 
How much of this Kind and of this Credulity remained 

10 even to our own Age may be observed by any Man that Re 
flects, so far as Thirty or Forty Years, how often Avouched, 
and how generally Credited, were the Stories of Fairies, 
Sprites, Witchcrafts, and Enchantments. In some Parts of 
France, and not longer ago, the common People believed 

15 certainly there were Lougaroos, or Men turned into 
Wolves ; and I remember several Irish of the same mind. 
The Remainders are woven into our very Language : 
Mara, in old Runick, was a Goblin that seized upon Men 
asleep in their Beds, and took from them all Speech and 

20 Motion ; Old Nicka was a Sprite that came to strangle 
People who fell into the Water ; Bo was a fierce Gothick 
Captain, Son of Odin, whose Name was used by his 
Souldiers when they would Fright or Surprise their 
Enemies ; and the Proverb of Rhyming Rats to Death 

25 came, I suppose, from the same Root. 

There were, not longer since than the time I have men 
tioned, some Remainders of the Runick Poetry among the 
Irish. The Great Men of their Septs, among the many 
Offices of their Family, which continued always Jn the 

30 same Races, had not only a Physician, a Hunts-man, 
a Smith, and such like, but a Poet and a Tale-teller. The 
first Recorded and Sung the Actions of their Ancestors, 
and Entertained the Company at Feasts : The latter 
Amuzed them with Tales when they were Melancholy and 

35 could not sleep. And a very Gallant Gentleman of the 



68 Sir William Temple 

North of Ireland has told me of his own Experience, That, 
in his Wolf-Huntings there, when he used to be abroad 
in the Mountains three or four Days together, and lay 
very ill a Nights, so as he could not well sleep, they would 
bring him one of these Tale-tellers, that, when he lay down, 5 
would begin a Story of a King, or a Gyant, a Dwarf and 
a Damosel, and such rambling stuff, and continue it all 
Night long in such an even Tone that you heard it going 
on whenever you awaked; and he believed nothing any 
Physitians give could have so good and so innocent effect, 10 
to make Men Sleep in any Pains or Distempers of Body 
or Mind. I remember, in my youth, some Persons of 
our Country to have said Grace in Rhymes, and others 
their constant Prayers ; and 'tis vulgar enough that some 
Deeds or Conveyances of Land have been so since the 15 
Conquest. 

In such poor wretched Weeds as these was Poetry 
cloathed, during those shades of Ignorance that over 
spread all Europe for so many Ages after the Sun-set of 
the Roman Learning and Empire together, which were 20 
Succeeded by so many New Dominions or Plantations 
of the Gothick Swarms, and by a New Face of Customs, 
Habit, Language, and almost of Nature. But upon the 
dawn of a New Day, and the Resurrection of other 
Sciences, with the Two Learned Languages, among us, 25 
This of Poetry began to appear very early, tho' very unlike 
it self, and in shapes as well as Cloaths, in Humor and in 
Spirit, very different from the Antient. It was now all in 
Rhyme, after the Gothick fashion ; for indeed none of the 
several Dialects of that Language or Allay would bear the 3 
Composure of such Feet and Measures as were in use 
among the Greeks and Latins', and some that attempted 
it soon left it off, despairing of Success. Yet, in this new 
Dress, Poetry was not without some Charms, especially 
those of Grace and Sweetness, and the Oar begun to shine 35 



Of Poetry 69 

in the Hands and Works of the first Refiners. Petrach, 
Ronsard, Spencer met with much Applause upon the 
Subjects of Love, Praise, Grief, Reproach. Ariosto and 
Tasso entred boldly upon the Scene of Heroick Poems, 
5 but, having not Wings for so high Flights, began to Learn 
of the old Ones, fell upon their Imitations, and chiefly of 
Virgil, as far as the Force of their Genius or Dis 
advantage of New Languages and Customs would allow. 
The Religion of the Gentiles had been woven into the 

10 Contexture of all the antient Poetry with a very agreable 
mixture, which made the Moderns affect to give that of 
Christianity a place also in their Poems. But the true 
Religion was not found to become Fiction so well as 
a false had done, and all their Attempts of this kind 

15 seemed rather to debase Religion than to heighten Poetryy 
Spencer endeavoured to Supply this with Morality, and to 
make Instruction instead of Story the Subject of an 
Epick Poem. His Execution was Excellent, and his 
Flights of Fancy very Noble and High, but his Design 

20 was Poor, and his Moral lay so bare that it lost the 
Effect: 'tis true, the Pill was Gilded, but so thin that 
the Colour and the Taste were too easily discovered. 

After these three, I know none of the Moderns that have 
made any Atchievments in Heroick Poetry worth Record- 

2 5 ing. The Wits of the Age soon left off such bold Adven 
tures, and turned to other Veins, as if, not worthy to sit 
down at the Feast, they contented themselves with the 
Scraps, with Songs and Sonnets, with Odes and Elegies, 
with Satyrs and Panegyricks, and what we call Copies of 

30 Verses upon any Subjects or Occasions, wanting either 
Genius or Application for Nobler or more Laborious 
Productions, as Painters that cannot Succeed in great 
Pieces turn to Miniature. 

But the modern Poets, to value this small Coyn, and 

35 make it pass, tho' of so much a baser Metal than the old, 

F a 



70 Sir William Temple 

gave it a New Mixture from Two Veins which were little 
known or little esteemed among the Ancients. There 
were indeed certain Fairyes in the old Regions of Poetry, 
called Epigrams, which seldom reached above the Stature 
of Two or Four or Six Lines, and which, Being so short, 5 
were all turned upon Conceit, or some sharp Hits of Fancy 
or Wit. The only Ancient of this kind among the Latins 
were the Priapeia, which were little Voluntaries or Extern- 
poraries Written upon the ridiculous Woodden Statues 
of Priapus among the Gardens of Rome. In the decays 10 
of the Roman Learning and Wit as well as Language, 
Martial, Ausonius, and others fell into this Vein, and 
applied it indifferently to all Subjects, which was before 
Restrained to one, and Drest it something more cleanly 
than it was Born. This Vein of Conceit seemed proper for 15 
such Scraps or Splinters into which Poetry was broken, and 
was so eagerly followed, as almost to over-run all that was 
Composed in our several modern Languages. The Italian, 
the French, the Spanish, as well as English, were for a great 
while full of nothing else but Conceit. It was an Ingredient 20 
that gave Taste to Compositions which had little of them 
selves ; 'twas a Sauce that gave Point to Meat that was 
Flat, and some Life to Colours that were Fading ; and, in 
short, those who could not furnish Spirit supplied it with 
this Salt, which may preserve Things or Bodys that are 25 
Dead, but is, for ought I know, of little use to the Living, 
or necessary to Meats that have much or pleasing Tasts of 
their own. However it were, this Vein first over-flowed 
our modern Poetry, and with so little Distinction or 
Judgment that we would have Conceit as well as Rhyme 30 
in every Two Lines, and run through all our long Scribbles 
as well as the short, and the whole Body of the Poem, 
whatever it is. This was just as if a Building should 
be nothing but Ornament, or Cloaths nothing but Trim 
ming ; as if a Face should be covered over with black 35 



Of Poetry 71 

Patches, or a Gown with Spangles; which is all I shall 
say of it. 

Another Vein which has entred and helpt to Corrupt our 
modern Poesy is that of Ridicule, as if nothing pleased 

5 but what made one Laugh, which yet come from Two very 
different Affections of the Mind; for as Men have no 
Disposition to Laugh at things they are most pleased with, 
so they are very little pleased with many things they 
Laught at. 

TO But this mistake is very general, and such modern 
Poets as found no better way of pleasing thought they 
could not fail of it by Ridiculing. This was Encouraged by 
finding Conversation run so much into the same Vein, and 
the Wits in Vogue to take up with that Part of it which 

15 was formerly left to those that were called Fools, and were 
used in great Families only to make the Company Laugh. 
What Opinion the Romans had of this Character appears 
in those Lines of Horace : 

Absentem qui rodit amicum, 

20 Qui non defendit alio culpante, solutos 

Qui captat risus hominmn famamque dicacis, 
Fingere qui non visa potest, Commissa tacere 
Qui nequit, Hie Niger est, Hunc tu, Romane, caveto ; 

And 'tis pity the Character of a Wit in one Age should 

25 be so like that of a Black in another. 

Rablais seems to have been Father of the Ridicule, a 
Man of Excellent and Universal Learning as well as Wit; 
and tho' he had too much Game given him for Satyr in 
that Age, by the Customs of Courts and of Convents, of 

30 Processes and of Wars, of Schools and of Camps, of 
Romances and Legends, Yet he must be Confest to have 
kept up his Vein of Ridicule by saying many things so Mali 
cious, so Smutty, and so Prophane, that either a Prudent, 
a Modest, or a Pious Man could not have afforded, tho' he 



72 Sir William Temple 

had never so much of that Coyn about him ; and it were to 
be wished that the Wits who have followed his Vein had 
not put too much Value upon a Dress that better Under 
standings would not wear, at least in publick, and upon 
a compass they gave themselves which other Men would 5 
not take. The Matchless Writer of Don Quixot is much 
more to be admired for having made up so excellent a 
Composition of Satyr or Ridicule without those Ingredients, 
and seems to be the best and highest Strain that ever was 
or will be reached by that Vein. 10 

It began first in Verse with an Italian Poem, called La 
Secchia Rapita, was pursued by Scarron in French with his 
Virgil Travesty, and in English by Sir John Mince, 
Hudibras, and Cotton, and with greater height of Burlesque 
in the English than, I think, in any other Language. But 15 
let the Execution be what it will, the Design, the Custom, 
and Example are very pernicious to Poetry, and indeed to 
all Virtue and Good Qualities among Men, which must be 
disheartened by finding how unjustly and undistinguish't 
they fall under the lash of Raillery, and this Vein of 20 
Ridiculing the Good as well as the 111, the Guilty and the 
Innocent together. J Tis a very poor tho' common Pretence 
to merit, to make it appear by the Faults of other Men. A 
mean Wit or Beauty may pass in a Room, where the rest 
of the Company are allowed to have none ; 'tis something 25 
to sparkle among Diamonds, but to shine among Pebbles is 
neither Credit nor Value worth the pretending. 

Besides these two Veins brought in to supply the 
Defects of the modern Poetry, much Application has been 
made to the Smoothness of Language or Style, which has 30 
at the best but the Beauty of Colouring in a Picture, & 
can never make a good one without Spirit and Strength. 
The Academy set up by Cardinal Richlieu to amuse the 
Wits of that Age and Country, and divert them from 
raking into his Politicks and Ministery, brought this in 35 



Of Poetry 73 

Vogue; and the French Wits have for this last Age been 
in a manner wholly turned to the Refinement of their 
Language, and indeed with such Success that it can hardly 
be excelled, and runs equally through their Verse and their 

5 Prose. The same Vein has been likewise much Cultivated 
in our modern English Poetry; and by such poor Recruits 
have the broken Forces of this Empire been of late made 
up ; with what Success, I leave to be judged by such as 
consider it in the former Heights and the present Declines 

ro both of Power and of Honour; but this will not discourage, 
however it may affect, the true Lovers of this Mistriss, 
who must ever think her a Beauty in Rags as well as in 
Robes. 

Among these many Decays, there is yet one sort of 

15 Poetry that seems to have succeeded much better with our 
Moderns than any of the rest, which is Dramatick, or that 
of the Stage. In this the Italian, the Spanish, and the 
French have all had their different Merit, and received 
their just Applauses. Yet I am deceived if our English 

20 has not in some kind excelled both the Modern and 
the Antient, which has been by Force of a Vein Natural 
perhaps to our Country, and which with us is called 
Humour, a Word peculiar to our Language too, and hard 
to be expressed in any other ; nor is it, that I know of, 

25 found in any Foreign Writers, unless it be Moliere, and 
yet his it self has too much of the Farce to pass for the 
same with ours. Shakespear was the first that opened this 
Vein upon our Stage, which has run so freely and so 
pleasantly ever since, that I have often wondered to find it 

30 appear so little upon any others, being a Subject so proper 
for them, since Humour is but a Picture of particular 
Life, as Comedy is of general ; and tho j it represents 
Dispositions and Customs less common, yet they are not 
less natural than those that are more frequent among Men; 

35 for if Humour it self be forced, it loses all the Grace ; 



74 Sir William Temple 

which has been indeed the Fault of some of our Poets 
most Celebrated in this kind. 

It may seem a Defect in the antient Stage that the 
Characters introduced were so few, and those so common, as 
a Covetous Old Man, an Amorous Young, a Witty Wench, 5 
a Crafty Slave, a Bragging Soldier. The Spectators met 
nothing upon the Stage, but what they met in the Streets 
and at every Turn. All the Variety is drawn only from 
different and uncommon Events, whereas if the Characters 
are so too, the Diversity and the Pleasure must needs be 10 
the more. But as of most general Customs in a Country 
there is usually some Ground from the Nature of the 
People or the Clymat, so there may be amongst us for this 
Vein of our Stage, and a greater variety of Humor in 
the Picture, because there is a greater variety in the Life. 15 
This may proceed from the Native Plenty of our Soyl, the 
unequalness of our Clymat, as well as the Ease of our 
Government, and the Liberty of Professing Opinions and 
Factions, which perhaps our Neighbours may have about 
them, but are forced to disguise, and thereby they may 20 
come in time to be extinguish't. Plenty begets Wantonness 
and Pride: Wantonness is apt to invent, and Pride scorns 
to imitate. Liberty begets Stomach or Heart, and Stomach 
will not be Constrained. Thus we come to have more 
Originals, and more that appear what they are ; we have 25 
more Humour, because every Man follows his own, and 
takes a Pleasure, perhaps a Pride, to shew it. 

On the contrary, where the People are generally poor, 
and forced to hard Labour, their Actions and Lives are all 
of a Piece ; where they serve hard Masters, they must 30 
follow his Examples as well as Commands, and are forced 
upon Imitation in small Matters as well as Obedience in 
great : So that some Nations look as if they were cast all 
by one Mould, or Cut out all by one Pattern, at least the 
common People in one, and the Gentlemen in another : 35 



Of Poetry 75 

They seem all of a sort in their Habits, their Customs, and 
even their Talk and Conversation, as well as in the Applica 
tion and Pursuit of their Actions and their Lives. 

Besides all this, there is another sort of Variety amongst 
5 us, which arises from our Clymat, and the Dispositions it 
Naturally produces. We are not only more unlike one 
another than any Nation I know, but we are more unlike 
our selves too at several times, and owe to our very Air 
some ill Qualities as well as many good. We may allow 

10 some Distempers Incident to our Clymat, since so much 
Health, Vigor, and Length of Life have been generally 
Ascribed to it ; for among the Greek and Roman Authors 
themselves, we shall find the Britains observed to Live the 
longest, and the ^Egyptians the shortest, of any Nations 

15 that were known in those Ages. Besides, I think none will 
Dispute the Native Courage of our Men and Beauty of our 
Women, which may be elsewhere as great in Particulars, 
but no where so in General ; they may be (what is said of 
Diseases) as Acute in other Places, but with us they are 

20 Epidemical. For my own Part, who have Conversed much 
with Men of other Nations, and such as have been both in 
great Imployments and Esteem, I can say very impartially 
that I have not observed among any so much true Genius 
as among the English : No where more Sharpness of Wit, 

25 more Pleasantness of Humour, more Range of Fancy, 
more Penetration of Thought or Depth of Reflection 
among the better Sort : No where more Goodness of 
Nature and of Meaning, nor more Plainness of Sense and 
of Life than among the common Sort of Country ^People, 

30 nor more blunt Courage and Honesty than among our 
Sea-men. 

But, with all this, our Country must be confest to be 
what a great Foreign Physitian called it, The Region of 
Spleen, which may arise a good deal from the great un- 

35 certainty and many suddain Changes of our Weather in all 



76 Sir William Temple 

Seasons of the Year. And how much these Affect the 
Heads and Hearts, especially of the finest Tempers, is 
hard to be Believed by Men whose Thoughts are not turned 
to such Speculations. This makes us unequal in our 
Humours, inconstant in our Passions, uncertain in our 5 
Ends, and even in our Desires. Besides, our different 
Opinions in Religion, and the Factions they have Raised or 
Animated for Fifty Years past, have had an ill Effect upon 
our Manners and Customs, inducing more Avarice, Am-, 
bition, Disguise, with the usual Consequences of them, than T0 
were before in our Constitution. From all this it may 
happen that there is no where more true Zeal in the many 
different Forms of Devotion, and yet no where more 
Knavery under the Shews and Pretences. There are no 
where so many Disputers upon Religion, so many Reason- 15 
ers upon Government, so many Refiners in Politicks, so 
many Curious Inquisitives, so many Pretenders to Business 
and State- Imployments, greater Porers upon Books, 
nor Plodders after Wealth. And yet no where more 
Abandoned Libertines, more refined Luxurists, Extrava- 20 
gant Debauches, Conceited Gallants, more Dabblers in 
Poetry as well as Politicks, in Philosophy, and in Chymistry. 
I have had several Servants far gone in Divinity, others 
in Poetry ; have known, in the Families of some Friends, 
a Keeper deep in the Rosycrucia Principles, and a Laun- 25 
dress firm in those of Epicurus. What Effect soever such 
a Composition or Medly of Humours among us may have 
upon our Lives or our Government, it must needs have a 
good one upon our Stage, and has given admirable Play to 
our Comical Wits : So that in my Opinion there is no Vein 30 
of that sort, either Antient or Modern, which Excels or 
Equals the Humour of our Plays. And for the rest, I can 
not but observe, (to) the Honour of our Country, that the 
good Qualities amongst us seem to be Natural, and the ill 
ones more Accidental, and such as would be easily Changed 35 



Of Poetry 77 

by the Examples of Princes, and by the Precepts of Laws ; 
such, I mean, as should be Designed to Form Manners, to 
Restrain Excesses, to Encourage Industry, to Prevent Mens 
Expences beyond their Fortunes, to Countenance Virtue, 

5 and Raise that True Esteem due to Plain Sense and 
Common Honesty. 

But to Spin off this Thread which is already Grown too 
long : What Honour and Request the antient Poetry has 
Lived in may not only be Observed from the Universal /^^^ 

10 Reception and Use in all Nations (from China to Peru} from 
Scythia to Arabia, but from the Esteem of the Best and the 
Greatest Men as well as the Vulgar. Among the Hebrews, 
David and Solomon, the Wisest Kings, Job and Jeremiah, 
the Holiest Men, were the best Poets of their Nation and 

15 Language. Among the Greeks, the Two most renowned 
Sages and Law-givers were Lycurgus and Solon, whereof 
the Last is known to have excelled in Poetry, and the first 
was so great a Lover of it, That to his Care and Industry 
we are said by some Authors to owe the Collection 

20 and Preservation of the loose and scattered Pieces of 
Homer in the Order wherein they have since appeared. 
Alexander is reported neither to have Travelled nor Slept 
without those admirable Poems always in his Company. 
Phalaris, that was Inexorable to all other Enemies, Relented 

25 at the Charms of Stesichorus his Muse. Among the 
Romans, the Last and Great Scipio passed the soft Hours of 
his Life in the Conversation of Terence, and was thought to 
have a Part in the composition of his Comedies. Ccesar 
was an Excellent Poet as well as Orator, and Composed a 

30 Poem in his Voyage from Rome to Spain, Relieving the 
Tedious Difficulties of his March with the Entertainments 
of his Muse. Augustus was not only a Patron, but a 
Friend and Companion of Virgil and Horace, and was him 
self both an Admirer of Poetry and a pretender too, as far 

35 as his Genius would reach or his busy Scene allow. 'Tis 



78 Sir William Temple 

true, since his Age we have few such Examples of great 
Princes favouring or affecting Poetry, and as few perhaps 
of great Poets deserving it. Whether it be that the fierce 
ness of the Gothick Humors, or Noise of their perpetual 
Wars, frighted it away, or that the unequal mixture of the 5 
Modern Languages would not bear it, Certain it is, That the 
great H eighths and Excellency both of Poetry and Musick 
fell with the Roman Learning and Empire, and have never 
since recovered the Admiration and Applauses that before 
attended them. Yet such as they are amongst us, they 10 
must be confest to be the Softest and Sweetest, the most 
General and most Innocent Amusements of common Time 
and Life. They still find Room in the Courts of Princes 
and the Cottages of Shepherds. They serve to Revive and 
Animate the dead Calm of poor or idle Lives, and to Allay 15 
or Divert the violent Passions and Perturbations of the 
greatest and the busiest Men. And both these Effects are 
of equal use to Humane Life ; for the Mind of Man is like 
the Sea, which is neither agreable to the Beholder nor 
the Voyager in a Calm or in a Storm, but is so to both 20 
when a little Agitated by gentle Gales; and so the Mind, 
when moved by soft and easy Passions or Affections. I 
know very well that many, who pretend to be Wise by the 
Forms of being Grave, are apt to despise both Poetry and 
Musick as Toys and trifles too light for the Use or Enter- 25 
tainment of serious Men. But whoever find themselves 
wholly insensible to these Charms would, I think, do well 
to keep their own Counsel, for fear of Reproaching their 
own Temper, and bringing the Goodness of their Natures, 
if not of their Understandings, into Question. It may be 30 
thought at least an ill Sign, if not an ill Constitution, 
since some of the Fathers went so far as to esteem the 
Love of Musick a Sign of Predestination, as a thing Divine, 
and Reserved for the Felicities of Heaven it self. While this 
World lasts, I doubt not but the Pleasure and Request 35 



Of Poetry 79 

of these Two Entertainments will do so too ; and happy 
those that content themselves with these or any other so 
Easy and so Innocent, and do not trouble the World or 
other Men, because they cannot be quiet themselves, 
5 though no body hurts them ! 

When all is done, Human Life is, at the greatest and 
the best, but like a froward Child, that must be Play'd with 
and Humor'd a little to keep it quiet till it falls asleep, 
and then the Care is over. 



NOTES 

THE essays 'Upon the Ancient and Modern Learning' and 
'Of Poetry' were published in the second part of Temple's 
Miscellanea, which appeared in November, 1690. The third 
edition, containing the author's final revision, has been used as 
the basis of the present text (Miscellanea, the Second Part, in 
Four Essays : I. Upon Ancient and Modern Learning. II. Upon 
the Gardens of Epicurus. III. Upon Heroick Virtue. IV. Upon 
Poetry. By Sir William Temple, Baronet. Juvat antiques accedere 
Fontes. The Third Edition, Corrected and Augmented by the 
Author, London, 1692). Temple's posthumous 'Defence of the 
Essay upon Antient and Modern Learning', published by 
Swift in Miscellanea, The Third Part, 1701, should also be 
consulted by the student. 

The first, and in fact both, of the essays were provoked by the 
so-called controversy of Ancients and Moderns, which had been 
precipitated, or rather given a new turn, by Charles Perrault, 
who read a poem on the superiority of the moderns, Le Siecle 
de Louis le Grand, at a meeting of the French Academy on 
January 27, 1687 ; and in the following year Fontenelle published 
his Digression sur les Anciens et les Modernes, and Perrault the 
first volume of his elaborate defence, the Parallels des Anciens 
et des Modernes. In the controversy that ensued, Boileau, 
Dacier, and others espoused the cause of the ancients against 
Perrault and Fontenelle. Temple's essay focussed English 
attention on the controversy, and resulted not only in a general 
discussion, in which William Wotton, Rymer, and others took 
part, but more especially in a bitter quarrel on the authenticity 
of the Letters of Phalaris, which Temple had mentioned as an 
illustration of the literary superiority of the ancients (cf. note 
to 34. 30 sq.). Rigault's Histoire de la Querelle des Anciens et 
des Modernes, 1856, is still the best account of the whole 
matter, for England as well as for France: cf. Brunetiere, 
Evolution des Genres, ch. iv ; Spingarn, Critical Essays of the 



Notes to pp. 2-15 81 

Seventeenth Century, vol. i, p. Ixxxviii sq. ; Vial and Denise, Ide'es 
et Doctrines litte'raires du XVII* siecle, pp. 247-90 ; Daniels, 
Saint- Evremond en Angleterre, 1907; Jebb, Life of Bentley ; 
Macaulay, Essay on Temple; andD.N.B. s.v. Temple and Bentley. 

PAGE 2. 20. The Antediluvian World, i.e. Thomas Burnet's 
Sacred Theory of the Earth, the first part of which, describing 
Paradise and the Deluge, appeared in an English dress in 1684, 
three years after the Latin original ; the second part was 
published in 1689. 

21. The Plurality of Worlds, i. e. Fontenelle's Entretiens sur 
la Pluralite des Mondes, 1686, translated into English by John 
Glanvill in 1688. 

PAGE 3. 4. A small Piece concerning Poesy. In 1688, Fonte- 
nelle published a volume of Poesies Pastorales, which contained, 
in addition to the very tame pastorals themselves, a Discours 
sur la Nature de VEglogm and the highly significant Digression 
sur les Anciens et les Modernes. 

PAGE 4. 20. The fragments of the Egyptian priest Manetho 
(B. c. 283-246) on the history of Egypt are collected by Muller, 
Frag. Hist. Graec., 1856. 

21. Justin, Hist. Philippi, ii. i. 5. 

22. Herodotus, bks. iii, iv, passim ; Diodorus Siculus, Bibl. 
Hist. xix. 73. 

PAGE 9. 16. Temple's account of the Brahmans of India is 
almost wholly derived from Strabo, Geog. xv. i. 59-73 : on 
Calanus (10. 29), see ibid. xv. i. 64; on Zormanochages, i.e. 
Zarmanochegas (11. 12), ibid. xv. i. 73. 

PAGE 11. 26. Herodotus, iv. 2. 

PAGE 12. 30. Missionary Jesuits. Temple seems to have in 
mind two Portuguese Jesuits, from whose works his account of 
China (to 13. 32) is for the most part derived : Alvaro Semmedo, 
author of the Imperio de la China (Engl. transl., The History 
of the Great and Renowned Monarchy of China, 1655 ; v cf. pp. 
31-58, 86-96), and Gabriel de Magalhaens, author of the Doze 
Excellencias da China (Engl. transl., New History of China, 
1688) ; cf. also the work of the Belgian Jesuit, Philippe Couplet, 
Confucius, Sinarum Philosophus, sive Scientia Sinica Latine 
exposita, 1687. 

PAGE 15. 4. Amautas, the sages of the Peruvian Incas ; cf. 






82 Notes to pp. 15-34 

Garcilaso de la Vega's Commentaries Reales de los Yncas, 1609 
(abridged version by Sir Paul Rycaut, The Royal Commentaries 
of Peru, 1688), bk. ii, ch. 27, on 'the poetry of the Yncas 
Amautas, who are philosophers, and Haravicus or poets'. 

PAGE 19. 25-6. The ' Stag's head at Amboyse ' is described by 
Evelyn, Diary, May 2, 1644. The * large Table at Memorancy ' 
has been identified by M. Pierre de Nolhac as the sixteenth- 
century table, with decorations by Jean Bullant, once owned by 
the constable Anne de Montmorency at the Chateau d'Ecouen, 
but now at Chantilly. 

PAGE 20. 25 sq. Science and Arts have run their circles, and 
had their periods. On the idea of progress, see Spingarn, Critical 
Essays of the Seventeenth Century, vol. i, pp. Ixxxix sq., ci sq. 
The theory of cycles of culture was first widely diffused between 
the time of Bouhours's Entretiens d'Ariste et d' Eugene, 1671, and 
Fontenelle's Dialogues des Morts, 1683; cf. Dryden's Essays, 
ed. Ker, i. 36, ii. 25, and infra, 30. 17 sq. 

PAGE 24. 22. John Reuchlin (1455-1522), the famous German 
humanist. 

23. George Buchanan (1506-1582), the Scottish historian 
and scholar. 

PAGE 25. 22. The New French Author, c. See supra, note 
to 3. 4. 

PAGE 32. 33. John Wilkins (1614-1672), bishop of Chester. 

34. D'Avila. Enrico Caterino Davila's Historiadelle Guerre 
cimli di Francia appeared in 1630. 

34. Famianus Strada (1572-1649), author of the Prolusiones ', 
his De Bello Belgico, 1632-47, was translated into English by 
Sir R. Stapylton in 1650. 

35. The German historian Sleidanus (John Philippson, 
1506-1556) published his De Statu Religionis et Reipublicae Carolo 
Quinto Caesare Commentarii at Strassburg in 1555 ; it was 
translated in 1560 as Sleidanes Commentaries. 

PAGE 34. 3086. 22. This is the passage which precipitated 
the Bentley-Boyle controversy. The letters ascribed without 
foundation to the Sicilian tyrant Phalaris had been widely 
diffused during the Renaissance ; they had been translated into 
Latin and into Italian before the end of the fifteenth century, 
twice into French before the end of the sixteenth, and into 



Notes to pp. 34-41 83 

English by W. D. in 1634 ; they were again translated by J. S. 
in 1699. Bentley's Dissertation settled the question of their 
spuriousness ; for a list of the controversial pamphlets in the 
dispute, see Dyce's edition of the Dissertation, 1836, vol. i, 
pp. xi-xviii. 

PAGE 35. 8. Politian, i.e. Angelo Poliziano (1454-1494), the 
famous Italian humanist. The passage to which Temple refers 
occurs in Poliziano's first Epistle (Angeli Politiani Opera, Lyons, 

i539> P- 2). 

33. The allusion to the Roman History of Velleius Pater- 
culus (written under Tiberius) as a model of Latin style is an 
instance of Temple's casual and uncritical judgements, not 
unlike that on the Phalaris Letters. 

PAGE 36. 5. The ' little Treatise ' of Minucius Felix is the 
Octavius, a charming dialogue in the Ciceronian manner, written 
in defence of Christianity in the age of Marcus Aurelius. 

I 3-3 I - This list of great writers has been ridiculed by 
Macaulay because of the omission of Dante, Tasso, Shakespeare, 
Milton, Moliere, and other poets ; but Temple has specifically 
limited the discussion to prose (supra, 33. 12-13 : ' But tne 
Consideration of Poetry ought to be a subject by it self. For 
the Books we have in Prose,' &c.). Macaulay's censure is 
therefore unfounded. 

15. Padre Paolo, i. e. Fra Paolo Sarpi (1552-1623), historian 
of the Council of Trent ; the Istoria del Concilio Tridentino was 
published at London in 1619. 

16. Antonio de Guevara (1495 ?-i545), author of the Relox 
de Principes, o Marco Aurelio, 1529, and other works ; they 
were translated by North, Hellowes, and Fenton, and the 
Letters by Savage as late as 1657. Their inflated style was once 
thought to have exercised an influence on Lyly's Euphuism. 

22. The Histoire amoureuse des Gaules of Roger de ^.abutin, 
comte de Bussy (1618-1693), was published c. 1665 5 ' a pretty 
libel against the amours of the Court of France ' (Pepys, Diary, 
May i, 1666). 

PAGE 38. 3-7. Ovid first enunciated the theory that peace is 
essential to poetry ; see Tristia, i. i. 39. 

PAGE 41. 22 sq. The theory that 'Cervantes smiled Spain's 
chivalry away' (Byron, Don Juan, xiii. n) has persisted in 



84 Notes to pp. 41-53 

English literature since Temple first gave expression to it in 
this passage ; cf. Steele, in the Tatter, no. 219, Defoe's Memoirs 
of Captain Carleton, Motteux's preface to Don Quixote, 1700 
(Becker, Don Quixote in der englischen Literatur, p. 26 sq.). 
Rapin (Reflexions sur la Poetique, ii. 28) ascribes Cervantes's 
satire on chivalry to personal pique. 

PAGE 42. 24. Temple apparently refers, not to Alfonso X, the 
Learned (el Sabio], King of Castile from 1252 to 1284, but to 
Alfonso V of Aragon, I of Naples and Sicily (1385-1458), the 
hero of Panormita's De Dictis et Factis Regis Alphonsi. The 
passage which Temple cites is paraphrased from Melchior de 
Santa Cruz's Floresta Espanola de Apothegmas, from which 
Bacon had also borrowed his 97th Apophthegm. 

PAGE 45. 3. Virgil, Eel. viii. 69-71. 

PAGE 46. 5. Meric Casaubon's Treatise concerning Enthusiasme, 
as it is an Effect of Nature, but is mistaken by many for either 
Divine Inspiration or Diabolical Possession was published in 1655. 

PAGE 53. 2255. 17. The long campaign against the critical 
rules of neoclassicism was inaugurated in the first half of the 
sixteenth century by Aretino (cf. Vossler, ' Pietro Aretino's 
kiinstlerisches Bekenntnis', in the Neue Heidelberger Jahrbucher, 
1900), and was continued by Giordano Bruno, Marino, and 
others (see Spingarn, Critical Essays of the Seventeenth Century, 
vol. i, p. Ixxv) ; but Saint- vremond led the vanguard in 
Temple's day. His essays are filled with attacks on the Rules ; 
cf. (Euvres melees, ed. Giraud, Paris, 1865, ii. 414 : ' Vous avez 
raison, Messieurs, vous avez raison de vous moquer des songes 
d'Aristote et d' Horace, des reveries de Heinsius et de Grotius, 
des caprices de Corneille et de Ben Johnson, des fantaisies de 
Rapin et de Boileau. La seule regie des honnetes gens, c'est 
la mode. Que sert une raison qui n'est point re$ue, et qui peut 
trouver a redire a une extravagance qui plait ? ' (cf. ibid. ii. 321, 
387, 501-2, &c.). The influence of Saint-Evremond's critical 
work at this time was very great. The first English versions, 
Mixt Essays . . . written originally in French by the Sieur de Saint 
Evremont, 1685, and Miscellanea, or Various Discourses, trans 
lated by F. Spence, 1686, were probably the first volumes of 
critical essays that had ever appeared in England ; these were 
followed by the Miscellaneous Essays, 1692-94, in two volumes, 



Notes to pp. 53-60 85 

translated by various hands, by the Works, 1700, in two volumes, 
and by a three-volume collection 'with the Author's Life by 
Mr. Des Maizeaux ', 1714 (2nd ed. 1728). In addition to these, 
Silvestre and Des Maizeaux published at least two editions of 
the French originals in London, the (Euvres mesle'es, 1705, in 
two volumes, and the Veritables (Euvres, 1706, in three. Gildon, 
in the Complete Art of Poetry, 1718, i. 117 sq., answers Temple's 
attack on the .Rules, as well as that in Farquhar's Discourse 
upon Comedy, 1702. 

PAGE 54. 17. // would be too much Mortification to these great 
Arbitrary Rulers . . . to Observe the worthy Productions that have 
been formed by their Rules. Cf. Dryden's prologue to Love 
Triumphant, 1694 (Works, ed. Scott-Saintsbury, viii. 379) : 

'To Shakespeare's critic [i.e. Rymer] he [i.e. Dryden] 

bequeathes the curse, 

To find his faults, and yet himself make worse ; 
A precious reader in poetic schools, 
Who by his own examples damns his rules.' 

Cf. also Saint-^vremond's anecdote of the Abbe d'Aubignac 
((Euvres melees, ii. 320), and Fontenelle ((Euvres, ed. 1764, 
iii. 80) : ' Ces regies qui ne sont pas encore faites, ou que tout 
le monde ne sait pas, voila apparemment 1'art de plaire, voila 
en quoi consiste la magie.' 

31. Fosliciter audet. Horace, Epist. ii. i. 166. 

32. Lusit amabiliter. Ibid. ii. i. 148. 
PAGE 55. 3. Ibid. ii. i. 211-13. 

31. Aristotle, Probl. xix. 28. 

32. Tacitus, Germ. ii. 

PAGE 56. i. Pliny, Nat. Hist. vii. 57. 14. 

PAGE 57. 18. The Spanish Translation of the Jews in Ferrara. 
This version of the Old Testament, begun in the ^fifteenth 
century, was completed in the sixteenth by Abraham Usque 
(E. Pinhel) and Yom Tob Athias (Jeronimo de Vargas), and 
published at Ferrara in 1553 as the Biblia en Lengua Espanola 
traduzida palabra por palabra de la verdad Hebrayca por muy 
excelentes Letrados. 

PAGE 60. 20. Book of Fables, c. This refers to Le Livre des 
Lumieres, ou la Conduite des Roys, compose par le sage Pilpay, 



86 Notes to pp. 60-69 

Indien, traduit en fran^ois par David Sahid dlspahan, Paris, 
1644. It was virtually what it professed to be, a translation of 
a Persian form of the Arabic Kalilah wa Dimnah, which in its 
turn goes back to the original Indian fables of Bidpai, or Pilpay. 
La Fontaine borrowed some of his best fables from this source. 
29. Longi Pastomtia, i.e. the famous Greek pastoral 
romance of Daphnis and Chloe, ascribed to Longus. 

PAGE 62. 6. Florus, the ' Florus poeta ' (probably P. Annius 
Florus) whose verses to Hadrian, in which this phrase occurs, 
are preserved by Aelius Spartianus, Adrian, xv. 

9. These verses of Hadrian are also to be found in the 
same book of Aelius Spartianus. 

PAGE 63. 20 sq. Wotton (Reflections on Ancient and Modern 
Learning, 3rd ed., 1705, p. 509) points out that Temple's 'Runic* 
knowledge is chiefly derived from two Danish scholars, Olaus 
Wormius and Thomas Bartholin the younger. Wormius 
published his Literatura Runica in 1636, Danicorum Monumen- 
torum libri sex in 1643, and other works on Scandinavian anti 
quities ; Bartholin's Antiquitates Danicae appeared at Copenhagen 
in 1689. For an account of these and other works accessible to 
Temple, including Robert Sheringham's De Anglorum Gentis 
Origine Disceptatio, 1670, see F. E. Farley's Scandinavian Influ 
ences in the English Romantic Movement, Boston, U. S. A., 1903. 

PAGE 67. 15. Lougaroos, i. e. 'loups-garous.' 

18 sq. On these imaginary derivations of * mare ' or ' night 
mare ' from Mara, of ' bo ' or ' bogle-bo ' from Bo, and ' Old 
Nick ' from Nicka, see Olaus Wormius, Dan. Mon. i. 4, Brand's 
Popular Antiquities, ed. Ellis, ii. 515, 519, and N. E. D. s. v. On 
* rhyming rats to death ', see the notes of the commentators on 
As You Like It, in. ii. 187-8. 

PAGE 69. 9-15. Boileau's authority (Art Poetique, iii. 193 sq.) 
had given a setback to the argument in favour of Christian 
machinery in heroic poetry ; cf. Dryden's Essays, ed. Ker, i. 32, 
and note. 

20. His Moral lay so bare that it lost the Effect. Cf. Addison, 
Account of the greatest English Poets, 1694, on Spenser : 
' While the dull moral lies too plain below.' 
27 sq. They contented themselves with the Scraps, with Songs 
and Sonnets, &c. Temple inherited this contempt for the lyric 



Notes to pp. 69-73 87 

from Bacon and Hobbes ; cf. Rapin, Reflexions sur la Poetique, 
i. 3 (Rymer's transl.) : ' Thus an ignorant person shall start up, 
and be thought a Poet in the world for a lucky hit in a Song or 
Catch, where is only the empty flash of an imagination heated 
perhaps by a debauch, and nothing of that celestial fire which 
only is the portion of an extraordinary Genius ... A Sonnet, 
Ode, Elegy, Epigram, and those little kind of Verses that often 
make so much noise in the world, are ordinarily no more than 
the meer productions of imagination ; a superficial wit, with 
a little conversation of the world, is capable of these things.' 

PAGE 71. 19. Horace, Sat. i. 4. 81-5. 

PAGE 72. 12. La Secchia Rapita, Alessandro Tassoni's mock 
heroic poem on the war declared by the Bolognese on the 
Modenese in order to recover a bucket, was published in 1622. 

12. The Virgile Travesti of Paul Scarron (1610-1660) was 
published in 1648-52, and was paraphrased by Charles Cotton 
(Scarronides, 1664). 

13. Sir John Mennes, or Mince (1599-1671), is referred to 
here as co-author of Wits Recreations, 1640, and Musarum 
Deliciae, 1655, which owed their inspiration to the Muses 
Gaillardes, the Parnasse Satyrique, the Cabinet Satyrique, and 
similar collections of French verse written more or less in 
imitation of the Priapeia. 

14. Cotton. See supra, note to 1. 12. 

30 sq. Temple's complaint that ' smoothness of language or 
style ' had taken the place of ' spirit and strength ' had been 
anticipated by La Bruyere, Rapin, and other French critics ; 
cf. Reflexions sur la Poetique, i. 31 (Rymer's transl.) : * Of late 
some have fallen into another extremity by a too scrupulous 
care of purity of language : they have begun to take from Poesie 
all its nerves and all its majesty by a too timorous reservedness 
and false modesty, which some thought to make the Character 
of the French Tongue, by robbing it of all those wise and 
judicious boldnesses that Poesie demands,' &c. It is these 
occasional elements of freedom in Rapin's theory that made his 
book popular in England. Cf. Bouhours, La Maniere de bien 
penser, ed. 1695, p. 415. 

PAGE 73. 14 sq. Saint- Evrernond's praise of English comedy 
in his essay ' De la Comedie angloise', 1677 ((Euvres melees, 



88 Notes to pp. fj-JJ 

ed. 1865, " 3 8 3 : ' H n'y a point de comedie qui se confonne 
plus a celle des anciens que 1'angloise, pour ce .qui regarde les 
moeurs,' &c.), counted for much in determining English opinion ; 
and Rymer, Dennis, and Congreve agreed with Temple in 
thinking that in this genre their countrymen had ' excelled both 
the Modern and the Ancient'. Temple here ascribes the 
superiority of English comedy to its humour, and his statement 
that humour is 'a Word peculiar to our Language' became 
a commonplace of English criticism (see Spingarn, op. tit., vol. i, 
p. Ix sq.). He accounted for this fact on the ground of the 
greater freedom of English manners and government, and this 
argument was repeated by Congreve (1696) and many others 
from the i44th Guardian in 1713 to Blair's Lectures on Rhetoric 
and Belles- Lettres in 1783. 

25. Moliere's influence in England was then at its height ; 
for an early list of English plays imitated or borrowed from him, 
see Giles Jacob's Poetical Register, 1719, pp. 292-5. 

PAGE 76. 25. Rosycrucia Principles. The Rosicrucian mysteries, 
first enunciated in Germany in the Fama Fraternitatis, 1614, were 
expounded in England by Robert Fludd and John Heydon (see 
D.N.B. s. v.), but the Comte de Gabalis, ou Entretiens sur les 
Sciences secretes, 1670, by the Abbe de Villars, had given them 
a wider popularity at about this time ; the book was translated 
twice in 1680, by Lovell and by Ayres, and again in 1714. 

PAGE 77. 10. All Nations from China to Peru, another of the 
many phrases and commonplaces due to Temple. Dr. Johnson, 
Thomas Warton, and others repeat the phrase, as Temple him 
self may have been thinking of Boileau's ' De Paris au Perou, 
du Japon jusqu'a Rome.' 



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